Weather conditions allow only a narrow window of opportunity for surface transport to reach the site of the Goose project in Nunavut, about 400 kilometres southwest of Cambridge Bay and 520 kilometres northeast of Yellowknife. Accessibility depends on open shipping lanes in the Beaufort Sea, which close as temperatures drop, as well as ice roads that are only stable when it’s cold.
Rather than being daunted by such challenging conditions, Clive Johnson, president and CEO at B2Gold Corp., is excited about working on Goose, the most advanced project in an 80-kilometre belt with a series of gold deposits in banded iron formation in the Back River Gold District, which B2Gold acquired through its buy-out of Sabina Gold & Silver Corp. this February for $1.1-billion.
“One of our differentiators is the willingness to look at opportunities that come with a calculated risk. While we do our due diligence, we’re quite entrepreneurial,” says Mr. Johnson. “We’re excited to add such a high-quality, high-grade gold project in a top mining jurisdiction to our portfolio, and we’re pleased to welcome the exceptional Sabina team into B2Gold.”
A homecoming for B2Gold management
B2Gold is a low-cost international senior gold producer headquartered in Vancouver, Canada, with operating gold mines in Mali, Namibia and the Philippines, and exploration and development projects in Mali, Colombia, Finland and Uzbekistan, and now in Canada’s North.
“Back River represents a great opportunity to make a difference locally while we continue our international projects, which have taken us from a startup exploration company 15 years ago to a million-ounce-per-year responsible gold producer with current market capitalization of about $6-billion,” says Mr. Johnson, for whom working in Canada represents “a homecoming.”
He began his career in the mining industry over 40 years ago as a claim-staker, line-cutter and expeditor in B.C. and the Yukon with Bema Industries, a private exploration, contracting and consulting company. Mr. Johnson and his partners created Bema Gold, an intermediate gold producer with significant northern exploration, construction and production success that includes building two low-cost gold mines in northern Russia between 1998 and 2005.
As part of Bema Gold, key B2Gold team members were involved in building Kupol, the biggest project in the far north of Russia, and Mr. Johnson says this experience “serves us well in Nunavut, where we’ll be building 160 kilometres of ice roads every year.”
Part of B2Gold’s recipe for success is “finding projects that fulfill our criteria,” says Mr. Johnson. “We’re very disciplined in our acquisitions. The team at Sabina did an excellent job of taking the project to the current level, and this allows us to move forward without having to change the schedule.” Construction is underway and is expected to be completed in the first quarter of 2025.
B2Gold is also committed to honouring the existing framework agreement between Sabina and the Kitikmeot Inuit Association (KIA), outlining renewable 20-year benefit and land tenure agreements, says Mr. Johnson. “We’re able to build on these relationships and accelerate community programs with our landowners and partners.”
This fits with the company’s strong commitment to corporate social responsibility. Mr. Johnson sees such values as “an extension of Canadian culture, which is based on treating people around the world with fairness, respect and transparency, and on delivering on the promises we make.
“We have a strong track record of making lives better in local communities where we work worldwide, and we think we can make a real difference in the North,” he says. “We look forward to working with the KIA as we develop the Goose project to production.”
Exploration plans and a strong start
Beyond the construction of the Goose project, B2Gold has committed financial resources to develop the significant gold resource endowment at the Back River Gold District into a large, long-life mining complex. “We see the area as wide open for exploration,” says Mr. Johnson. “We’re starting with a $27-million exploration budget to further define the Goose deposit and the untapped potential and unlock opportunities for growth.”
More immediate plans are progressing swiftly. “We’re off to a good start. We’ve already moved 900 truckloads to the Goose site with all the critical parts for the first phase of construction,” he says. “The key is to get everything to a staging area by ship and get the ships out before the ocean freezes – and then move the equipment by truck starting in February before the ice roads disappear, sometime in May.”
Having a Canadian company bringing remarkable expertise and financial strength – plus strong value alignment – to bear on work in Canada’s North represents a powerful potential both for communities and B2Gold, says Mr. Johnson. “We believe we can make a big difference in Nunavut as well as achieve a significant increase in gold production.
“We see this as another example of how we’re not only meeting – but exceeding – our goals.”
One of our differentiators is the willingness to look at opportunities that come with a calculated risk. While we do our due diligence, we’re quite entrepreneurial. We’re excited to add such a high-quality, high-grade gold project in a top mining jurisdiction to our portfolio, and we’re pleased to welcome the exceptional Sabina team into B2Gold.— Clive Johnson, President and CEO at B2Gold Corp.
Advertising feature produced by Randall Anthony Communications with B2Gold. The Globe’s editorial department was not involved.