B2Gold Corp. has identified 10 positive COVID-19 cases at the Fekola mine site, 9 of which are currently asymptomatic, through the company’s ongoing proactive COVID-19 testing and response plan.
Fekola has implemented testing programs at the mine site, the exploration camp and in Bamako which are designed to identify asymptomatic carriers of COVID-19 and protect Fekola’s employees, both site and Bamako-based, local community populations, and the general Malian population.
These results do not have a material impact on operations and the mine continues to operate and maintain both quarterly and annual production budget guidance.
B2Gold places the safety and well-being of its workforce as the highest priority and continues to encourage input from all its stakeholders as the situation continues to evolve.
The Company continues to monitor public and employee sentiment to ensure that stakeholders are in alignment with the continued operations at the mine.
The Fekola project, located in Southwest Mali, announced the first positive COVID-19 case on April, 16 2020 (an employee at the Fekola exploration camp approximately 5 km from the Fekola project) despite operating a significantly reduced access basis since March 24, 2020, allowing only minimal movement of personnel between Bamako and the Fekola site.
Additionally, starting April 19, 2020, the site was further locked down and employees from local villages in the Fekola area were brought to live in temporary accommodations on site to create an “island setting” with minimal interaction with local communities.
All employees entering the Fekola project are now required to quarantine for a minimum of twelve days prior to entering the general site population. Despite these measures, one new positive COVID-19 case was identified on May 2, 2020.
In accordance with standard protocol, contact tracing was completed and all persons known to have interacted with the person testing positive were immediately isolated and, based on their proximity to the positive case, were tested regardless of whether or not symptoms were present.
Based on this proactive testing, an additional 9 employees have now tested positive for COVID-19, with all such persons currently being asymptomatic.
All persons testing positive have been removed from site and protective measures have been reinforced, working closely with site personnel, local communities, unions and the Government of Mali.
The Company’s procedures continue to evolve in conjunction with World Health Organization and Center for Disease Control guidelines as more becomes known about the virus and the Company is regularly monitoring the situation and following local and national health authority requirements and recommendations.
A critical care specialist has been consulting to the Company to assist with developing guidelines as well as local and global implementation policies.
B2Gold is currently reviewing options, with support from the Malian government, for conducting comprehensive on-site testing of all employees for the COVID-19 virus with the goal of testing each employee prior to entering or exiting the Fekola project.
B2Gold continues to engage with local stakeholders to prevent the COVID-19 virus from entering the communities around our operations. Education programs are continuing to be put into place to protect local communities by promoting hygienic practices and limit social interactions, in an effort to prevent the spread of the virus.
The Fekola mine continues to operate without impediments to mining or milling and expects to meet or exceed its production estimates for the second quarter of 2020 and annual 2020 guidance.
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Additionally, all supply lines remain open and the site continues to receive supplies critical to operating at full capacity. The expansion of the Fekola mill continues and is expected to be completed by the end of the third quarter of 2020.
The mining fleet expansion continues to perform well with the first 6040 excavator now operational and loading the first eight 789 trucks, which were delivered to site ahead of schedule.
The second planned delivery of equipment has now been received on site and is currently undergoing assembly and commissioning. Expansion of the tailings storage facility remains on schedule and will provide capacity for tailings disposal in 2023.