Canadian exploration and development company Ivanhoe Mines has installed a large-capacity rock crusher 1 150 m below surface at its upgraded Kipushi zinc/copper/silver/germanium mine, in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).
The crusher has a maximum capacity of 1 085 t/h. After the 54 t machine was disassembled on surface, the pieces were lowered down Kipushi’s main production shaft – shaft 5 – and installed in the crusher chamber.
Reassembly of the crusher is under way and commissioning is expected to begin in June.
“The installation of the massive new rock crusher is a noteworthy engineering accomplishment. It marks the final, major underground infrastructure upgrade project needed to resume underground mining, crushing and hoisting operations at Kipushi,” Ivanhoe chairperson Robert Friedland said in a statement on Tuesday.
He added that negotiations were ongoing with government agencies, including State-owned miner Gécamines and DRC national railway company, Société Nationale des Chemins de Fer du Congo (SNCC), as well as potential project financiers, to advance agreements to launch a new era of commercial production at Kipushi.
“Since acquiring our 68% interest in the Kipushi project in 2011, our team has worked with Gécamines to achieve our shared objective of resuming commercial production. In parallel with ongoing mine upgrading work, we are evaluating several proposals we have received to fund the remaining infrastructure construction,” Friedland added.
Ivanhoe’s drilling has upgraded and expanded the Big Zinc deposit’s measured and indicated mineral resources to an estimated 10.2-million tonnes grading 34.9% zinc, 0.65% copper, 19 g/t silver and 51 g/t germanium, at a 7% zinc cutoff – containing an estimated 7.8-billion pounds of zinc.
The current mine redevelopment plan, as outlined in a December 2017 independent, prefeasibility study, has a construction period of less than two years, with a production rate of 225 000 t/y of zinc and cash costs of $0.48/lb of zinc over an 11-year initial mine life.
A definitive feasibility study (DFS) is also under way to further refine and improve the project’s economics, taking into consideration the significant capital already invested, to date, on critical rehabilitation work. Ivanhoe expects to complete the DFS later this year.
The study shows that the Kipushi mine will rank among the world’s largest zinc mines when fully operational and the company expects the project to be ready for operation before the end of this year.