+27 71 448 3496

Grid instability in DRC challenging but not a showstopper

Share Article
Despite intermittent grid instability since the end of 2022 and maintenance shutdowns last month, Kamoa-Kakula still achieved record quarterly production at one of the top copper mines in the world. Image credit: Ivanhoe Mines

Grid instability in DRC challenging but not a showstopper

Ivanhoe Mines is working alongside DRC’s state-owned power company, La Société Nationale d’Electricité (SNEL), to identify the causes of instability across the southern DRC’s electricity grid, which has affected operations at the company’s Kamoa-Kakula Complex.    

Despite intermittent grid instability since the end of 2022 and maintenance shutdowns last month, the mine still achieved record quarterly production at Kamoa-Kakula, one of the top copper mines in the world.

According to a statement by the company Kamoa Copper’s engineering team is working towards insulating the complex from future instability by expanding on-site backup generation capacity, as well as sourcing additional power imported from the Zambian grid.

“The team has identified a series of upgrades and has outlined a project plan to deliver the improvements. Mobilisation of resources is underway, with vendor selection and equipment procurement having commenced.”

According to Ivanhoe President Marna Cloete, on-site back-up power generation capacity will increase via a phased roll-out over the next 12 to 18 months.

During the second quarter, 11 megawatts (MW) of new generator capacity was installed, bringing the total on-site backup-power generation capacity to approximately 48 MW.

Delivery of a further 32 MW in backup generation capacity, sufficient to power Kamoa-Kakula’s entire Phase 1 and 2 operations in the event of grid disruptions, will commence later this year.

Over 100 MW of further backup generation capacity has been ordered and is expected to be installed in 2024, in time for the completion of the Phase 3 concentrator and smelter that are currently under construction.

Discussions are advancing to secure up to 100 MW of additional power via the Zambian grid interconnector, the initial phase of which is expected to be ready in the third quarter.

Record quarterly production (Grid instability in DRC challenging but not a showstopper)

Despite these challenges the mine produced a record 103,786 tonnes of copper in concentrate during the second quarter of 2023.

“Kamoa-Kakula’s Phase 1 and 2 concentrators are now operating at an increased throughput rate of 9.2 million tonnes per annum (Mtpa) following the ahead-of-schedule completion of the debottlenecking program during the first quarter.

“The Phase 1 and 2 concentrators set a monthly production record of 35,856 tonnes of copper in concentrate for May and produced 33,104 tonnes of copper during the shorter month of June,” says Cloete.

Kamoa-Kakula’s Phase 1 and 2 concentrators milled approximately 2.2 million tonnes of ore during the second quarter at an average feed grade of 5.2% copper. This included high-grade, run-of-mine ore from the Kakula Mine, supplemented with ore from the surface stockpiles to achieve throughput in excess of original design capacity.

“Strong copper recoveries continued for the quarter averaging 87.2%. The second quarter brings Kamoa-Kakula’s year-to-date production to 197,389 tonnes of copper in concentrate, which includes the ramp-up of the debottlenecking initiatives since February 2023. The 2023 annual production guidance for Kamoa-Kakula is maintained at between 390,000 to 430,000 tonnes of copper in concentrate.

A force to be reckoned with (Grid instability in DRC challenging but not a showstopper)

Meanwhile Ivanhoe’s Executive Co-Chair Robert Friedland says that the Phase 3 expansion project at Kamoa-Kakula, which includes the construction of Africa’s largest direct-to-blister flash smelter, which is well on schedule for first production in the fourth quarter of 2024.

“Kamoa-Kakula is set to become the fourth-largest copper producer in the world and the biggest copper mine in Africa, with an annual production of approximately 650,000 tonnes at industry-leading cash costs.

“It is a force to be reckoned with in terms of economic prosperity, consistently providing strong returns on investment and generating exceptional free cash flow in the near term. A new era has begun for the Central African Copperbelt, which will be a vital source of essential metals for future generations,” says Friedland.

Grid instability in DRC challenging but not a showstopper

WhyAfrica provides on the ground information and business intelligence about the sustainable utilisation and extraction of natural resources in Africa, and can assist your company through:  

  1. Membership:
  • WhyAfrica’s membership offers great business insights to you, your company, and clients.
  • Amongst many other benefits, we will publish editorial content about you or your company on the WhyAfrica online platform and on all WhyAfrica’s social media pages – the annual fee is R5,500 and you can find out more or subscribe here: https://www.whyafrica.co.za/product/membership/ 
  1. Sponsorship:
  • WhyAfrica’s annual 45-day African Road Trip takes place in July and August. We will visit more than 30 project sites and this year we plan to visit Angola, Zambia and Malawi. Sponsoring the Road Trip, or to be a WhyAfrica member, gives you unparalleled insight into the business environment of the countries that we travel to and the project sites we visit.
  • To be a member or sponsor allows you access to invaluable, on the ground, business intelligence and a great marketing opportunity for all companies doing business in Africa.
  • The main aim of our Road Trips is to promote Africa as an investment destination and to showcase Africa’s greatest companies, and projects to our large global audience, which includes a list of potential investors, venture capitalists and serial entrepreneurs.
  • To view the photos of last year’s Southern Africa Road Trip click on the gallery link or follow our Instagram account at why.africa https://www.whyafrica.co.za/road-trips/whyafrica-road-trips/. 
  1. Advertising:
  • We publish daily online articles on our WhyAfrica platform and post them on social media every day. Our combined online reach is more than 45,000. In-article banner ads are highly successful advertising tools as is advertising space on our website.
  • In addition to our bi-weekly newsletters, we publish two printed- and two interactive digital magazines per year. The printed magazines are distributed at major events and conferences throughout the year, and also on our WhyAfrica Road trips.
  • Digital magazines are e-mailed to all our subscribers and shared on our social media platforms. A copy of the latest edition is automatically attached to all our outgoing e-mails.
  • WhyAfrica magazines provide great marketing opportunities. There are also in-article and on-line advertising opportunities at exceptional rates. Contact me for more information on leon@whyafrica.co.za or give me a call.
  • To subscribe to WhyAfrica’s free newsletters and magazines click on the link and register: https://www.whyafrica.co.za/subscribe/  
  1. 4. Partnerships
  • Maximise your African exposure and link with our large business network through becoming one of only 10 WhyAfrica partners. We have only five prime partnership positions left for 2023, so contact me at leon@whyafrica.co.za before the end of March to get the best deal. 

Grid instability in DRC challenging but not a showstopper

Share Article


AgricultureEnvironmental Management & Climate ChangeEnergyESGInfrastructureMiningPolitical EconomyTourism and ConservationWater Management