Does Ivanhoe’s DRC licenses hold more secrets?

Does Ivanhoe’s DRC licenses hold more secrets?

If you follow mining in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), one of the big questions this year will be whether TSX listed Ivanhoe Mines’ exploration team will find more Kamoa-Kakula-like copper discoveries in the country.

Ivanhoe’s Kamoa-Kakula mine is a monster. While the company’s operational team will aim to tame the monster this year in order to boost copper production at Kamoa-Kakula to more than 450 000 tonnes per annum (tpa) by the third quarter of 2023, its exploration team will unleash the drill rigs soon to unlock the potential at a similar geological setting.

Rumours that there are more, and bigger secrets hidden not far from Kamoa-Kakula will be put to rest as Ivanhoe’s expansive 2022 drilling campaign, totalling more than 95 000m, gets underway soon. According to Mark Farren, Kamoa Copper’s CEO, management is excited to realise the potential of the Western Foreland exploration licence, right next door to Kamoa-Kakula.

Meanwhile, Robert Friedland, Ivanhoe’s Co-chair, announced the start of hot commissioning of the Phase 2, 3.8-million-tonne-per-annum concentrator plant at the Kamoa-Kakula Mining Complex. In addition, the first filtered copper concentrate production from the Phase 2 plant also has commenced.

According to Farren, the operations team expects that the ramp-up of the Phase 2 plant will progress smoother than Phase one.

“We now have successfully built the first two concentrator plants ahead of schedule and on budget. Given the experience gained by our operations team during the ramp up of the Phase 1 plant, we anticipate the ramp up of the Phase 2 plant will go even smoother. In addition, since the Phase 2 plant has started earlier than planned, we now expect to achieve the upper end of our copper production guidance for 2022, which currently is estimated at between 290,000 tonnes and 340,000 tonnes of copper in concentrate,” says Farren.

First ore was introduced into the Phase 2 milling circuit on the 21st of March, and first copper concentrate has been produced, approximately four months ahead of the original, announced development schedule. The Phase 2 concentrator plant is identical to the Phase 1 plant, with a design throughput of 475 dry tonnes per hour, or 3.8 million tonnes of ore per year. Over the last six months, the Phase 1 plant has consistently exceeded design ore throughput by approximately 10% to 15%.

The Phase 1 concentrator plant reached commercial production in July 2021, approximately two months after the start of hot commissioning, and reached design ore throughput in August 2021.

“The entire Kamoa Copper team has done a tremendous job in getting the Phase 2 plant up and running less than 10 months after the Phase 1 plant began operations,” says Friedland. “The commissioning of the Phase 2 plant is the second important step on the path to establish Kamoa-Kakula as one of the two largest copper mining complexes on our planet … with a mine life that will last for generations. Kamoa-Kakula is by far the greenest and highest-grade major copper producer in the world. As Phase 2 is handed over to our operations team, the projects team now will turn its focus to the Phase 3 expansion, which currently is scheduled to begin operations by the end of 2024.

De-bottlenecking underway to boost processing capacity

Meanwhile the de-bottlenecking program that was announced last month is progressing on schedule. The program will see Kamoa-Kakula increase the combined design processing capacity of the Phase 1 and Phase 2 concentrator plants by approximately 21%, to 9.2 million tonnes per annum, up from 7.6 million tonnes per annum.

Engineering design is underway, and procurement of long-lead items has begun. Kamoa Copper expects to be in a position to increase Kamoa-Kakula’s combined processing capacity to 9.2 million tonnes per annum by Q2 2023.

Once completed, the de-bottlenecking program will enable the copper production from Kamoa Copper’s first two phases to exceed 450,000 tonnes per year, positioning Kamoa Copper as the world’s fourth largest copper producer.

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