B2Gold completes Fekola mill expansion ahead of schedule

Fekola is located near Mali’s border with Senegal, and about 520 km from the country’s capital, Bamako. (Image courtesy of B2Gold Corp.)

Canada’s B2Gold (TSX: BTO)(NYSE: BTG) said on Thursday it had commissioned the mill expansion at its flagship Fekola mine in Mali, which will process 7.5 million tonnes of ore a year, almost a month earlier than planned.

The mid-tier gold miner said it had completed all major construction activities associated with the mill expansion, as well as the execution of a process performance test to compare with design expectations.

The minor outstanding construction work is expected to be completed by mid-September 2020, B2Gold said.

Commissioning of the 7.5-million-tonne-a-year mill expansion came about one month ahead of the scheduled completion date

The Vancouver-based miner noted that Fekola has continued to operate as usual and no operational days have been lost due to the covid-19 pandemic or the recent coup in Mali, the second in less than 10 years.

Speaking to MINING.COM last week as part of an industry event, chief executive and director Clive Johnson said the company was “not very worried” about the political situation in Mali, which so far has proven uneventful.

“It was a bloodless coup, supported by the majority of Malians, so the situation has been very calm and supplies are still getting through to mining projects,” he said.

Business as usual

There are eight gold mines in the belt where Fekola is located, in western Mali. They are about 2,000 km away from Timbuktu, where the government is based, Johnson said.

“All the eight companies that are in the area all understand the nature of security. None of the mines have ever lost a day to any kind of violent activity or any kind of terrorist event. So, we’re in the good part of the country to be in.” 

Johnson noted that gold mining is key to Mali and authorities understand the importance of keeping those operations running smoothly. The activity accounts for 10% of the nation’s GDP and 25% of the revenue that comes to the government through taxes and other revenue streams. 

The miner reaffirmed its confidence in Mali by keeping its 2020 guidance of 1,000,000 to 1,055,000 ounces of gold untouched. It also announced a $0.04/share third-quarter dividend, a 100% increase from the prior $0.02 divvy.

Fekola, one of the world’s largest gold mines, produced 147,424 ounces of the yellow metal in the second quarter. It largely drove B2Gold’s record revenue of $442 million, 65% higher than in the same period last year.