TSX-listed Ivanhoe Mines and joint venture (JV) partner Zijin Mining have made good progress with developing the Kamoa-Kakula copper mine, in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), with initial production on track for the third quarter of 2021.
An independent preliminary economic assessment, issued in February, indicated that Kamoa-Kakula has a potential production rate of at least 18-million tonnes a year.
Once this expanded rate is achieved, Ivanhoe’s 39.6%-owned Kamoa-Kakula project was anticipated to become the world’s second-largest copper mine, with peak yearly production of more than 700 000 t of copper.
Development of the Kakula mine, the first of multiple planned mining areas at Kamoa-Kakula, was making “excellent progress”, said Ivanhoe in a statement on Friday.
The first underground access drives intersected Kakula’s initial high-grade ore, grading about 3% copper, in late August, then intersected an even higher-grade zone, grading about 6% copper, in late October, as the drives advance towards mining zones grading more than 8% copper in the centre of the Kakula deposit.
Ivanhoe and Zijin were rapidly advancing the earthworks for the processing plant and other surface infrastructure. The JV had issued purchase orders for the long-lead mining and processing equipment.
Following the completion of basic engineering and procurement, as part of the forthcoming Kakula definitive feasibility study, Kakula’s initial processing plant capacity had increased from 3-million tonnes a year to 3.8-million tonnes a year.
The expansion in initial plant capacity will require increasing the underground mining crews in 2020 from 11 to 14 to ensure sufficient mining operations to feed the expanded plant and create pre-production stockpiles of about 1.5-million tonnes of high-grade ore and an additional 700 000 t of lower-grade material, with grades of between 1% and 3% copper.
This should allow the plant to ramp up quickly and maintain a steady-state throughput of 3.8-million tonnes a year.
The project team had recently completed basic engineering design and costing for Kakula’s initial mine and underground infrastructure, the first concentrator module and associated surface infrastructure. The updated estimate of the project’s initial capital costs was about $1.3-billion, from January 1 this year, which assumed commissioning of the processing plant in the third quarter of 2021.
The Kamoa-Kakula JV incurred $182.5-million in capital costs for the nine months to September 30.
Other engineering and construction activities under way at Kamoa-Kakula include the refurbishment of six turbines at the Mwadingusha hydroelectric power plant and associated 220 kV infrastructure to supply the mine with clean hydropower, construction of a permanent road between the mine site and the Kolwezi airport, construction of the first phase of accommodation for 1 000 employees and contractors, and earthworks for the processing plant and other surface infrastructure.
Ivanhoe also continued to drill on its wholly-owned Western Foreland licences, which are adjacent to the Kamoa-Kakula mining licence, with assay results expected soon.
The company also intersected high-grade mineralisation at the Kamoa North Bonanza zone earlier this year and work on an initial mineral resource estimate for the Bonanza zone was under way.
Meanwhile, at Ivanhoe’s 68%-owned Kipushi mine redevelopment project, in the DRC, the company was working on a definitive feasibility study (DFS) to mine the initial Big Zinc zone.
At Ivanhoe’s 64%-owned Platreef platinum group metals project, in South Africa, the first shaft had been sunk to 953 m below surface, while the 950-m-level station development for Shaft 1 was under way.
The company expected the shaft development to be complete by mid-2020, with a final depth of 1 km.
Shaft 2 will have an internal diameter of 10 m and will be equipped with two Koepe winding plants – of which one will be equipped with 40 t rock-hoisting skips, providing the mine with a total capacity to hoist six-million tonnes of ore a year, making it the single largest hoisting capacity at any mine in Africa.
To make use of the record-high palladium prices of about $1 800/oz at the moment, Ivanhoe was accelerating its production plan for the Platreef project, by using Shaft 1 as the mine’s initial production shaft, followed by expansion to the production rate as outlined in its DFS.