B2Gold has increased the Fekola north extension zone exploration budget based on very positive exploration drill results to date.
Mali - The 2018 Mali exploration budget will increase by $3.9 million to accelerate the current Fekola north extension zone drill programme, which is extending and infilling mineral resources to the north of the main Fekola deposit.
B2Gold is increasing the number of diamond drills from the current five rigs to eight rigs, as well as one reverse circulation (RC) rig and one aircore rig.
A total of 39,000 m have been drilled this year on the Fekola north extension, and an additional 16 000 m are now planned for the remainder of 2018.
Exploration drilling of the Fekola north extension has now extended mineralisation over one kilometre north of the Fekola reserve pit boundary.
The drilling to date has indicated that the high-grade mineralised shoot in the Fekola reserve deposit not only continues to be well mineralised over one kilometre to the north, but the shoot has now been intersected higher up, closer to surface than originally projected in the Fekola north extension zone.
These results and previous drill results indicate that the potential exists, subject to further drilling, to significantly increase open-pit resources and reserves, north of the current Fekola open-pit reserve.
The Fekola north extension remains open to the north.
Due to the increasing size of the mineralised area, B2Gold now intends to release a new mineral resource for the Fekola deposit including a portion of the Fekola north extension early in the fourth quarter of 2018.
In addition, based on the positive exploration results to date, the B2Gold's in-house technical team is conducting engineering and other technical studies to ascertain the potential to expand the current Fekola mine and mill facilities and increase tonnage throughput, thereby increasing annual gold production, if, as expected, a larger open-pit resource is confirmed by the current exploration and in-fill drilling.
Results of these studies are projected to be available by year-end 2018.
On 25 September 2017, B2Gold announced that its in-house construction team had completed construction of the Fekola mill on budget and commenced ore processing at the Fekola mine, more than three months ahead of the original schedule.
The first gold pour at the Fekola mine was achieved on 7 October 2017.
On 30 November 2017, the Fekola mine achieved commercial production, one month ahead of the revised schedule and four months ahead of the original schedule.
Fekola is projected to produce between 400,000 and 410,000 ounces of gold in 2018 at cash operating costs of between $345 and $390 per ounce and all-in sustaining costs (AISC) of between $575 and $625 per ounce.
Gold production at Fekola in the first quarter of 2018 was well above budget, producing 114,142 ounces of gold.
Cash operating costs and AISC were well below budget at $268 per ounce and $486 per ounce, respectively.
To date, the 2018 drill programme at the Anaconda zones, located approximately 25 km from Fekola, has returned additional positive results from the near-surface saprolite zones and the recently-discovered good grade bedrock zones beneath the saprolite.
The planned 2018 drill programme at Anaconda has been reduced to allow exploration drilling, for the balance of 2018, to focus on the Fekola north extension programme.
However, some exploration continues at Anaconda, with one RC drill and one aircore drill, to continue to test the targets below the saprolite resource and expand the saprolite resource.