Back River’s new owner says Goose gold mine build on schedule

B2Gold Corp. finished acquisition of Sabina Gold and Silver Corp. earlier this month

B2Gold Corp. president and chief executive officer Clive Johnson says his company’s plan to build the Goose gold mine will stay on schedule at Back River after it finalized its acquisition of Sabina Gold and Silver Corp. earlier this month. (Photo by David Lochead)

By David Lochead

Touted as one of the highest-grade, undeveloped gold deposits in the world, the Back River Gold project officially has a new owner.

B2Gold Corp.’s president, Clive Johnson, introduced himself at the Nunavut Mining Symposium Wednesday, just after his company announced it has finished its acquisition of Sabina Gold and Silver Corp and its Back River Gold project.

“We’re extremely excited to be here,” he said during the symposium’s projects update session, where mining companies shared what’s new about their operations.

B2Gold announced in February it would acquire Sabina for approximately $1.1 billion. The Vancouver-based company finalized the purchase on April 19.

Back River is an 80-kilometre belt of gold deposits in the Kitikmeot region about 500 kilometres northeast of Yellowknife.

Sabina announced late last year it would build a mine at Back River to be named Goose mine. At the time, Sabina said the mine was expected to produce about 223,000 ounces of gold per year for 15 years, worth an estimated $1.1 billion. The company aimed to begin production in 2025.

Johnson said this was going to stay on schedule at the Back River project.

“We’re bringing our financial firepower with Sabina,” Johnson said.

B2Gold has three operating gold mines in Mali, Namibia and the Philippines, projects in development in Mali, Colombia and now Canada with Back River, and exploration projects in Mali, the Philippines and Namibia.

Johnson also said he’s looking forward to working with the Kitikmeot Inuit Association.

Matthew Pickard is a former Sabina executive who now works for B2Gold Canada as the company’s vice-president of environment and sustainability.

He said his primary focus with B2Gold during the winter and spring season hasn’t changed — that’s the 163-kilometre winter ice road to the mine, which as been operational since March.

Agnico Eagle Mines Limited, Baffinland Iron Mines Corp. and De Beers Group Canada also gave updates at the annual mining symposium Wednesday.

Agnico Eagle vice-president Martin Plante emphasized his company’s efforts to hire Inuit for local mining jobs, with multi-generational employment as a goal.

“You can start to see examples where both father and son are working at our sites,” Plante said.

He said a proposed extension of the Meliadine gold mine near Rankin Inlet would create 205 new jobs. The Nunavut Impact Review Board announced last year it would assess that proposal.

Over at Baffinland, vice-president of sustainable development Megan Lord-Hoyle reiterated the company’s intention to build a rail line from its Mary River mine to Steensby Inlet.

She also spoke of the launch of an Inuit supervisor training program this year. The program is designed to train Inuit for leadership roles within the company.

David Willis, a geologist with De Beers Group Canada, spoke of updates at the Chidliak diamond project, including a drilling campaign this summer. Chidliak is located about 120 kilometres northeast of Iqaluit.

The Nunavut Mining Symposium started Tuesday and runs until Friday.

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