Vancouver-based gold producer B2Gold Corp. (TSX: BTO) has two operating mines in Nicaragua, one in The Philippines and, as of two months ago, one in Namibia. This is in addition to exploration assets in Nicaragua, Mali, Burkina Faso and Colombia. Last year it achieved record annual consolidated gold production of 384,003 ounces, of which a record 149,763 ounces came from its La Libertad Mine. The company’s gold revenue came to $486.6 million on record sales of 386,219 ounces at an average price of $1,260 per ounce. The company also fit in the acquisition of Papillon Resources Limited (ASX: PIR) and its high-quality Fekola Gold Project in Mali. Needless to say, B2Gold Corp. has achieved a lot in its relatively short, eight-year existence. But that’s not so surprising when you look at its management team – none of which are strangers to success.
B2Gold was founded in 2007 by the executive and management team of Bema Gold Corporation – a company founded as a junior explorer in 1988 and sold to Kinross Gold Corporation for C$3.5 billion in February 2007. Collectively this team has made three world-class gold discoveries, two of which it helped develop into mines: Refugio in Chile and Kupol in Russia. The team also built the Champagne mine in the USA and the Julietta mine in Russia, as well as operated the Petrex mines in South Africa. Overall the team has discovered 32.7 million ounces of gold, 6 billion pounds of copper and 56.3 million ounces of silver, in addition to creating several thousand jobs worldwide.
A core member of this team is Bill Lytle, who joined Bema Gold in 1998. “There have been times when I have left to do other things, but I have always come back to work with the people with whom I enjoy it most,” he remarks.
“Our collective experience gained while at Bema has greatly contributed to the rapid growth and success of B2Gold. The key to our success is that we have our own construction group that manages all phases of construction and allows us to dictate the pace and quality of the project.”
Bill was appointed Managing Director of B2Gold Namibia in 2011 and was recently promoted to the position of Vice President for Africa. He says he is “very proud” of this accomplishment, but credits it equally to his long-standing team.
“It is not only a reflection of the work that I have done, but also on the entire team that has been along with me for the journey,” he says. “Throughout my career I have been very blessed to work with some amazing people who have been instrumental in getting me where I am today. This includes not only those that supervise me but also those that I supervise.”
B2Gold’s most recent achievement was starting up the Otjikoto Mine, located 300 kilometres north of Namibia’s capital city of Windhoek. The company started work on the project in December 2011, completed the feasibility study in 2012 and started construction in 2013. In 2014 the company erected its mill, set up a power plant and, on 11 December, poured its first gold on budget and ahead of schedule.
“We could not have asked for a better construction development timeline,” remarks Bill. “It required full buy-in from the government, workers, expatriates and management. The project was successful because of the support of the government and excellent work force that was hired.”
The mine has estimated mineral reserves of 26,465,000 tonnes at 1.42 grams per tonne, for a contained gold content of 1,207,000 ounces. In 2015 it is expected to produce between 140,000 and 150,000 ounces of gold at a cash operating cost of approximately US$500 per ounce and all-in sustaining costs of approximately $700 per ounce. Gold production is expected to increase to 200,000 ounces per year in 2016 and 2017 following expansion of the project’s mill.
“Otjikoto is a world-class mine developed in record time that will add significant shareholder value,” says Bill. “In addition, we have focused on sustainability since project inception. We have put in key policies and procedures to ensure that stakeholders at all levels of the project benefit from this national asset. The goal is to maximise sustainable opportunities for communities, the government and our workers. Only through focusing on these efforts can we leave a legacy of sustainability and fully unlock the value of the resource for the company and stakeholders.”
B2Gold has found Namibia to be a great country for mining development, with a straightforward regulatory procedure and a supportive government. “The Chamber of Mines has worked hard to ensure that the country’s regulatory bodies clearly convey their intentions in the media, so that everyone is aware of what is happening,” Bill explains. “The regulations set in place are mining-friendly, the infrastructure is very good and the work environment is enjoyable.”
January saw the gold price trending upwards from the lows it hit at the end of 2014, but it is still a long way from the highs it enjoyed last year. However, thanks to its risk-averse planning, B2Gold is protected against such market fluctuations.
“Because we can’t predict gold prices, B2Gold invests in projects that have strong economics and makes plans for long-term investment,” says Bill. “During construction and operations, B2Gold maintains fiscal responsibility to ensure that each project can be successful.”
B2Gold’s sound economic strategy has helped it grow rapidly over the last few years, from producing around 160,000 ounces in 2012 to producing 391,162 ounces last year when including the 7,159 ounces of pre-commercial production from Otjikoto.
The company is launching full-throttle into 2015. This year it expects its Otjikoto, Masbate, La Libertad and Limon mines to collectively produce between 500,000 and 540,000 ounces of gold – around a third more than produced in 2014. In two years’ time it hopes to add production from the recently acquired Fekola project to produce a worldwide total of 900,000 ounces per annum.
“In addition to this near-term production growth profile, B2Gold’s corporate objective is to build further shareholder value,” says Bill. “We will achieve this through the exploration and development of existing projects and additional accretive acquisitions, and through capitalising on the extensive experience and relationships that management has developed over the past 25 years.”