Vancouver, March 23, 2020 – B2Gold Corp. (TSX: BTO, NYSE AMERICAN: BTG, NSX: B2G) (“B2Gold” or the “Company”) announces that it is continuing with its comprehensive COVID-19 response plan and to date has not experienced any incidents of the COVID-19 virus at its sites or corporate offices. The Company continues to operate its mines in Mali (Fekola) and Namibia (Otjikoto), with a temporary suspension of mining but continued milling at its mine in the Philippines (Masbate). In addition, the Company is moving its ongoing expansion and development projects forward with certain restrictions and delays experienced by individual project. The Company expects to meet or exceed its budgeted consolidated gold production for the first quarter of 2020.
The Masbate Mine expects to meet its budgeted gold production estimate for the first quarter of 2020. Based on a temporary shortage of fuel, the Masbate Mine has temporarily suspended mining activities (beginning on March 21, 2020), however the mill is continuing to operate and process material from stockpiles. The temporary fuel shortage is due to new regulations imposed by the Philippine Government related to the COVID-19 virus to ensure that all materials, including fuel, arriving on Masbate island via transport are not contaminated with COVID-19. A key component of the new regulations relate to the screening and certification of the crews transporting the materials, in order to ensure that delivery of fuel and other essential supplies to Masbate Island can be appropriately certified for delivery. The Philippine Federal Government has also issued a Memorandum from the Executive Secretary on March 16, 2020, which states that essential supplies should be allowed to continue to be shipped. The Company expects to provide an update on the Masbate Mine operations, including supply deliveries, later in the week. The current plan is for the mill at the Masbate Mine to continue to operate. The Company’s intention is to recommence mining once fuel supplies have been restored.
The Fekola Mine continues to operate without impediments to mining or milling and expects to meet or exceed its budgeted gold production estimate for the first quarter of 2020. All supply lines remain open and the site continues to receive supplies critical to operating at full capacity. In addition, Fekola has also built up a significant reserve of stockpiles that it can comfortably process through the second quarter of 2020 without a significant change to its annual guidance. Barring any unforeseen work stoppages due to COVID-19, including consumable supply disruption, the Company expects to meet its 2020 gold production and cost guidance at the Fekola Mine. 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 loading the five 789 trucks that were delivered to site ahead of schedule. The expansion of the tailings storage facility remains on schedule and will provide capacity for tailings disposal into 2023. The solar power plant construction continues but there is a possibility that some components may be delayed, primarily due to shipping delays, prior to startup of the solar plant in the third quarter of 2020. This delay will not impact the 2020 forecasted annual production at the Fekola Mine.
The Otjikoto Mine expects to meet its budgeted gold production estimate for the first quarter of 2020. All supply lines remain open and the site continues to receive supplies critical to operating at full capacity. The Otjikoto Mine continues to operate without impediments to mining or milling and has a significant reserve of stockpiles that it can process through the second quarter of 2020 without a significant change to its annual guidance. Barring any unforeseen work stoppages due to COVID-19, including consumable supply disruption, the Company expects to meet its 2020 gold production and cost guidance at the Otjikoto Mine. The underground project at Wolfshag is currently in the tender review process for underground mine development and could potentially be delayed if contractors cannot mobilize to site (scheduled for mid to late second quarter of 2020). The Company does not expect that a delay to the underground project will have any impact on the 2020 or 2021 forecasted annual production at the Otjikoto Mine.
At the Gramalote Project, the Company has determined, with extensive consultation with the surrounding communities and the Colombian government, to suspend drilling off the Inferred Mineral Resource but will continue to progress the feasibility study where possible. The suspension of drilling has the potential to delay the completion of the Gramalote project feasibility study into the first quarter of 2021.
Further to the Company’s news release dated March 18, 2020, the Company has been monitoring the COVID-19 outbreak and the potential impact at B2Gold’s operations since mid-February and has implemented several measures and introduced additional precautionary steps to manage and respond to the risks associated with the COVID-19 virus to ensure the safety of our employees and surrounding communities where we work while continuing to operate. This plan is continually being updated based on the severity of the pandemic in areas where we operate, the safety of our workforce, global response measures, government restrictions and extensive community consultation.
Travel by B2Gold corporate personnel continues to be restricted to absolute minimum requirements, and employees in the corporate offices have been advised to work remotely, including the corporate office in Vancouver. At each of our mines in Mali, Namibia and the Philippines, and our development project in Colombia, we have implemented several control measures for dealing with the outbreak of COVID-19, including a severe restriction of access to site, pre-screening for symptoms and travel history with possible COVID-19 exposure for all employees, and mandatory quarantine periods for any new personnel having access to the site. The Company’s procedures will continue to evolve according to the 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 the Company on the guidelines and global implementation.
B2Gold continues to engage with local stakeholders to prevent the virus from entering the communities around our operations. Education programs are being put into place to protect the communities by promoting hygienic practices and limiting social interactions in an effort to prevent the spread of the virus.
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