‘We remain convinced that the government of Mali wants more gold mining in the country and wants people like ourselves’
A LOT of B2Gold newsflow last year was focused on the firm’s non-African growth ambitions. Notably these included a $60m payment to AngloGold Ashanti for the Colombian prospect Gramalote, which B2Gold intends to develop single-handedly, and the C$890m development of the Goose Project in Canada following the C$1.1bn acquisition of Sabina Gold & Silver Corp. in April 2023.
Yet Africa remains (at least for now) the centre of Johnson’s growing empire especially as the firm’s Fekola mine in Mali generates roughly two-thirds of one million ounces in B2Gold’s annual gold production. As mentioned in previous editions of Rainmakers & Potstirrers, Johnson sees Fekola increasing output to 800,000 oz/year. An optimisation study that will support a new $250m mill to be situated at the Anaconda Area 20km from Fekola is, at the time of writing, imminent. B2Gold upgraded indicated resources from the Anaconda Area 80% to just over two million oz. Fekola has been an enormous success for B2Gold. Developed in 2017, the mine produced 110,000 oz in its first quarter, surprising its engineers who had previously developed B2Gold’s first mine, Otjikoto, in Namibia two years earlier. Otjikoto’s open pit is now being closed as its reserves are depleted.
An underground expansion to replace gold output from the open pit is underway. As for Mali, Johnson remains committed to expansion. This, at least, was his response when asked if a new mining code in Mali, signed into law in August, would deter investment. The code will enable the state and local investors to take stakes in mining projects of as much as 35%. It comes as Mali inches closer to Russia for financial and political support. Ominously, the United Nations has closed its local office in Bamako.
LIFE OF CLIVE
Johnson established his reputation with Bema Gold, which was bought by Kinross in 2007 for C$3.5bn. He then regrouped with former Bema colleagues to establish B2Gold, which embarked on an aggressive acquisition strategy, culminating in the $570m purchase of Papillon Resources in 2014. Interestingly for a Canadian, he played rugby union and occasionally takes a robust approach to critical analysts. In 2021, he sanctioned the company’s initiative to use proceeds from specially minted Rhino Gold Bars to protect the critically endangered black rhino population in Namibia, where B2Gold developed the Otjikoto mine.