B2Gold has forecast similar production this year from its Masbate Gold Project than the 175,803 ounces produced in 2015. The company’s 2016 guidance for the Philippines operation is between 175,000 and 185,000 ounces.

The company says the 2015 production total was in the mid-range of the production guidance of 170,000 to 180,000 ounces. The total was approximately 6% lower than in the previous year, due mainly to lower grades.

In the second-half of 2014, production at Masbate benefited from mining of a high grade area within the Colorado Pit with significantly higher grades than typically encountered through the rest of that pit. In the fourth quarter gold production was 47,958 ounces, compared to 62,972 ounces in the same period of 2014.

2016 cash operating costs at Masbate are forecast to be between $620 to $660 per ounce, a significant decrease of approximately 16% compared to the 2015 cost guidance of $740 to $775 per ounce, mainly attributable to lower projected prices for diesel fuel, heavy fuel oil (used for power generation) and explosives.

Masbate is budgeted to process an average of 18,360 tonnes of ore per day for a total of approximately 6.7 million tonnes of ore for 2016, reflecting an optimal throughput level while maximizing gold recoveries. Gold grades processed in 2016 are expected to average 1.15 grams/tonne and gold recoveries are anticipated to average 72.1%. Mill feed is budgeted to consist of transitional and fresh (primary) ore sourced predominantly from the Main Vein Stage 1 Pit (81%) and oxide ore from the Colorado Pit (19%).

For the plant upgrade project, the installation of additional process tanks is expected to be completed in the second quarter and the remaining work of cyclones, screens, pre-aeration systems and carbon regeneration systems is expected to be commissioned late in the third quarter. Additional electrical generating capacity will also be installed.

The purpose of the plant upgrade is to promote improved gold recovery and higher throughput by the addition of pre-aeration, cyclone modifications (among other grinding circuit modifications) and longer retention time (increased tank capacity) for coarser material, thereby optimizing economics of the existing facility without the large capital investment associated with a third ball mill.

Sustaining capital costs at Masbate are budgeted to total $24.6 million, consisting primarily of capitalized stripping costs ($6.5 million), land purchases ($6.4 million), equipment purchases for both mine and process operations ($5 million) and mine infrastructure development and facilities improvements ($3.9 million). Non-sustaining capital costs related to the plant upgrade project are budgeted to total $22.2 million.

The Masbate exploration budget for 2016 is approximately $4.9 million including 18,000 metres of drilling. The program includes further drilling in the Pajo area and on several other targets around the property.

B2Gold’s consolidated gold production for 2016 is expected to increase to between 510,000 to 550,000 ounces, compared to 493,265 ounces produced in 2015. The higher production relates mainly to increased throughput at the Otjikoto Mine in Namibia, following the completion of its mill expansion project in September 2015.