The ramp up of production continues well ahead of budget. The open pit Otjikoto gold mine poured first gold on December 11, 2014, one week ahead of schedule. In January 2015, the project continued its strong ramp up to commercial production ahead of schedule and produced 8 587 ounces against a budget of 8 267 ounces.
Better than budgeted performance was attributed to additional mill availability (89.6% versus budget of 70%) and better than anticipated throughput (34% above budget).
February 2015 also saw gold production ahead of budget (10 228 ounces produced versus 8 863 ounces budgeted). This was a product of better grade than January at 1.57 g/t (versus budget of 1.71) , better mill recoveries at 97.82% (versus budget of 96.17%), and better mill availability at 91.7% for the month (versus budget of 82%).
Based on the performance of the mill, and the fact that the company met commercial production criteria of 30 consecutive days of mill throughput of 65% of faceplate capacity by February 28, 2015, Otjikoto is declaring commercial production as of that date. Operating cash costs for the month of January were USD$612 per ounce versus a budget of USD$705 ounce.
For 2015, Otjikoto is expected to produce between 140 000 and 150 000 ounces of gold at a cash operating cost of approximately $500-$525 per ounce and all in sustaining costs of approximately $700 per ounce. The company expects annual gold production to increase to approximately 200 000 ounces in 2016 and 2017.
Expansion of the Otjikoto mill from 2.5 Mtpa to 3 Mtpa continues on schedule with the installation of the first additional leach tank to be completed during Q1, 2015. Major additional work that must be completed includes installation of a second leach tank, construction of a pebble crusher and associated piping and pumping components.
It is anticipated that this work will be completed by August 31, 2015. This will support additional throughput initially from the Otjikoto mine and subsequently from the fully permitted Wolfshag deposit that is located immediately adjacent to the main, Otjikoto deposit. The project continued the excellent health and safety record with no lost time accidents for the months of January and February 2015.
The B2Gold construction team has commenced road and site construction preparation at its next planned mine, the recently acquired Fekola project in Mali. The company will release the results of the feasibility study at Fekola in June 2015. Based on current assumptions, the Fekola mine has the potential to produce approximately 300 000 ounces of gold per year commencing in early 2018.