B2Gold Corp. (TSX: BTO), through its Malian subsidiary Menankoto SARL, announced Thursday that it has formally launched international arbitration proceedings against the Republic of Mali. The move is the latest update on securing the Menankoto deposit exploration permit, where the company alleges that the Malian government breached its obligations per the country’s mining laws.
The company’s current Menankoto permit application, which forms a part of the Anaconda area and is located 20 kilometres north of the company’s Fekola Mine license area, is still in limbo after a series of rejections by the Malian government. The mining firm is launching the arbitration in accordance with Article 36 of the Convention on the Settlement of Investment Disputes Between States and Nationals of Other States and the Rules of Procedure for the Institution of Conciliation and Arbitration Proceedings. The act is anchored on the arbitration clause baked in the Menankoto mining convention signed by the company and the Malian government as per the 2012 Mining Code.
Under this convention, the company is entitled to one-year extensions for its permit. When the company filed for the renewal in October 2020, it was rejected by the Malian mining agency citing the newly passed 2019 Mining Code as the reason. The updated mining law stipulates a “first come, first served” basis regarding permit applications. Menankoto SARL was advised in March 2021 that another mining company received a new exploration permit covering the Menankoto deposit.
Then-Mali Prime Minister Moctar Ouane withdraw the exploration permit awarded to another company after Menankoto SARL notified the government of its dispute. The mining firm reapplied for the permit and received another rejection on June 18, 2021. The Malian Ministry of Mines, Energy and Water cited that the permit application had been a subject of a court decision against the company, hence the rejection.
Menankoto SARL previously lodged two legal proceedings with the Malian Supreme Court, following the previous rejections on the permit application. The first action sought for an emergency injunction to suspend the refusal to review the Menankoto permit application while the court proceedings are ongoing; the second action asked to cancel the refusal to review altogether. The emergency injunction was denied but the second action had no decision. When the former prime minister withdrew the permit awarded to the third party company, Menankoto SARL also withdrew the second action request.
The mining firm then argues that the June 18 decision was “incorrectly rejecting the application,” which presumably initiated the international arbitration move.
According to the terms of the Menankoto mining convention, the arbitration will be handled by the International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes in Paris, France. As of press writing, the company has not disclosed the schedule of the arbitration nor the Malian government’s response to the proceedings.
The company relayed that it has invested approximately US$27.0 million on the Menankoto deposit for the past seven years and was planning to invest an additional $8.3 million in exploration on the site this year. B2Gold also stated that it produced 622,518 gold ounces out of Mali in 2020, comprising 27% of the country’s gold production.
The mining firm also reported that the Fekola mine, which it shares 20% stake with the Malian government, is unaffected by the Menankoto permit issues and is projected to produce 530,000 to 560,000 ounces of gold in 2021.
B2Gold Corp. last traded at $5.36 on the TSX.
Information for this briefing was found via Sedar and B2Gold Corp. The author has no securities or affiliations related to this organization. Not a recommendation to buy or sell. Always do additional research and consult a professional before purchasing a security. The author holds no licenses.