Mali cancels the granting of a B2Gold permit to an upstart minor – decree

BAMAKO, May 26 (Reuters) – Malian prime minister overturned a decision to grant an exploration permit previously held by Canadian miner B2Gold to a little-known Malian company before being arrested in a military takeover Monday, according to a decree.

The president and acting prime minister of the West African country resigned on Wednesday after their arrest, exacerbating the political crisis and sparking condemnation from international powers.

The Prime Minister’s decision, if upheld, could give B2Gold another opportunity to renew the permit, avoiding a potential clash with the government at a time of heightened political risk in the country.

In the decree of May 21, the now ousted Prime Minister Moctar Ouane ordered the annulment of a decision of March 24 to give the Menankoto exploration permit to the Malian company Little Big Mining SARL, without detailing the reasons for the ‘cancellation.

It was not immediately clear how Monday’s military takeover or official resignations would affect the decision to deny the permit to Little Big Mining.

The government previously rejected B2Gold’s request for an extension of the Menankoto exploration license it obtained through an acquisition in 2014. B2Gold has challenged the decision.

B2Gold said on March 29 that its Malian subsidiary, Menankoto SARL, requested a one-year license renewal in early February and was informed in early March that the new license would not be granted.

“The Company considers that the granting of the exploration permit covering the perimeter of the Menankoto permit to a third party is contrary to Menankoto’s legal rights under the Malian Mining Code of 2012 and the Malian Mining Code of 2019,” said B2Gold in a release at the time.

The Menankoto permit covers an area 20 km north of B2Gold’s Fekola mine, in southwest Mali, on the border with Senegal.

Fekola, in which the Malian government has a 20% stake, accounted for 27% of Mali’s industrial gold production last year. B2Gold expects the mine to produce 530,000 to 560,000 ounces of gold in 2021.

Operations at the Fekola mine are unaffected by the political upheaval, B2Gold said on Tuesday.

B2Gold country director Mohamed Diarra resigned last week, a directly-informed source told Reuters. (Reporting by Jeff Lewis in Toronto, David Lewis in Nairobi, Tiemoko Diallo in Bamako and Helen Reid in Johannesburg; editing by Aurora Ellis)

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