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Canadian miner B2Gold has formally started international arbitration proceedings over the Menankoto exploration permit, which Mali has refused to extend for another year.

The permit forms part of the Anaconda area, about 20 km north of the Fekola mine, which is not affected by the dispute.

B2Gold was denied an one-year extension to the Menankoto permit in March. It then emerged that a third-party, reported by newswire Reuters to be a little-known Malian company, had been granted a new exploration permit covering the perimeter of the Menankoto permit.

When the government was ousted in a military takeover in May, the new Prime Minister withdrew the exploration permit decree issued to the third-party, opening the way for B2Gold to apply for the the permit.

At the end of May, B2Gold submitted a reiteration of its original Menankoto permit application, without prejudice to the original application. However, on June 18, the Ministry of Mines, Energy and Water rejected the application on the basis that the application had been the subject of a court decision against Menankoto.

Menankoto had previously initiated two legal proceedings in the Malian Supreme Court.

B2Gold stressed that it “strongly believes” that Menankoto was entitled to a renewal of the permit under applicable law. Notwithstanding the arbitration, which would be heard in Paris, B2Gold said it remained willing to resolve the issue with the government.

The company has conducted extensive exploration on the Menankoto deposit for the past seven years, with an investment to date of about $27-million.