B2Gold has completed a preliminary study to evaluate the technical and economic viability of adding a solar plant to the Fekola mine site.
The results of that study indicated that it was a very solid project and that a plant of approximately 30 megawatts of solar generating capacity with a significant battery storage component would provide the best economic result.
A second study has now been completed that has established the detailed capital and operating cost analysis for the project.
Results indicated that a solar plant can provide significant operating cost reductions (estimated to reduce processing costs by approximately 7%), and the project was approved by the B2Gold Board in the second quarter of 2019.
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The Fekola Solar Plant will be one of the largest off-grid hybrid solar/heavy fuel oil (HFO) plants in the world.
It is expected that it will allow for three HFO generators to be shut down during daylight hours which will save about 13.1 million litres of HFO per year, at a capital cost of approximately $38 million, of which $20 million is expected to be incurred in 2019, with the balance in 2020.
The Fekola Solar Plant is scheduled for completion in August 2020 and has a four-year payback.
Earlier this year B2Gold announced very positive results from the Expansion Study PEA for the Fekola Mine.
As a result, B2Gold is proceeding with an expansion project to increase processing throughput by 1.5 Mtpa to 7.5 Mtpa from an assumed base rate of 6 Mtpa.
The PEA took into account the significant increase in the Fekola Mineral Resource announced on October 25, 2018.
Based on the PEA, once this expansion is complete, the Fekola Mine is expected to produce more gold over a longer life, with more robust economics and higher average annual gold production, revenues and cash flows than the previous life-of-mine (LoM).
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Project economic highlights from the PEA include: estimated optimized LoM extended into 2030, including significant estimated increases in average annual gold production to over 550,000 ounces per year during the five-year period 2020-2024 and over 400,000 ounces per year over the LoM (2019-2030), projected gold production of approximately five million ounces over the new mine life of 12 years of mining and processing (including 2019).
The processing upgrade will focus on increased ball mill power, with upgrades to other components including a new cyclone classification system, pebble crushers, and additional leach capacity to support the higher throughput and increase operability.
The capital costs of this mill expansion are estimated to be approximately $50 million, with spending evenly split between 2019 and 2020. The mining rate at Fekola will also be increased, along with additional mining equipment to accelerate the supply of higher-grade ore to the expanded processing facilities.
Initial capital costs for the fleet expansion are estimated at $85 million with $20 million expected to be incurred in 2019 and the balance by the end of 2020. Fleet costs are expected to be financed by equipment loans. Fekola pit design, schedule, and costs will be refined in late 2019 and early 2020, when updated resource and geotechnical models are available.
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Construction is scheduled to begin in October 2019 and be completed by the end of July 2020. All major long-lead equipment has been ordered. Detailed engineering and design activities are progressing well and scheduled to be completed by the end of September 2019.