Canadian mining exploration and development company Ivanhoe Mines’ Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) exploration team is continuing with its regional drilling programme that is targeting the Kamoa-Kakula-style copper mineralisation on its exploration licences in the west of the Kamoa-Kakula mining-licence area.
Ivanhoe Mines is focused on advancing its three mine-development projects in Southern Africa, the Platreef platinum/palladium/nickel/copper/gold discovery, in Limpopo, in South Africa; the Kamoa-Kakula copper discovery, in the DRC; and the extensive upgrading of the historic Kipushi zinc/copper/lead/germanium mine, also in the DRC.
In February, the company announced the results of an independently verified, updated mineral resource estimate showing that the ultrahigh-grade Kakula discovery alone now contains indicated mineral resources of 174-million tonnes at 5.62% copper, at a 3% copper cutoff grade, and 585-million tonnes at 2.92% copper, at a 1% cutoff.
The company indicates that the estimate boosted the combined Kamoa-Kakula indicated mineral resources to 1.03-billion tonnes at 3.17% copper, containing about 72-billion pounds of copper, as well as an additional 183-million tonnes of inferred mineral resources at 2.31% copper, at a 1.5% cutoff.
“The new mineral resource estimate established the Kamoa-Kakula project as the world’s fourth-largest copper discovery. Kamoa-Kakula’s copper grades are the highest, by a wide margin, of the world’s top ten copper deposits”, according to the company.
Kakula’s strike length now extends to more than 13 km and remains open for significant expansion in multiple directions. A total of 13 rigs are continuing with resource expansion and delineation drilling at the project, as well as geotechnical, hydrological and metallurgical drilling. Geophysical surveys were conducted at Kamoa-Kakula to help identify new, high-priority targets, the company stated in its first quarter financial results released this month.
The planned initial, six-million-tonne-a-year mine at Kakula is estimated to cost $1.2-billion; subsequent expansions and a smelter can be funded from cash flows or project financing.
With the new, expanded mineral resource estimate, Ivanhoe and its joint venture partner, Chinese diversified mining company Zijin Mining, are exploring options to accelerate the building of the first two mines at Kamoa-Kakula, and the potential for expanding production to 18-million tonnes a year and beyond, the company states.
Meanwhile, the company reports that the underground development at the planned initial mine at Kakula is making steady progress and is expected to reach the high-grade copper mineralisation later this year. The service and conveyor declines each have been advanced more than 460 m through underground development work.
At the Platreef platinum/palladium/nickel/copper/gold discovery, in Limpopo, sinking of Shaft 1 reached a depth of 750 m below surface last month. The development of the second of the four planned shaft stations – the 750-m-level station – has begun. Shaft 1 is expected to reach the top of the Flatreef orebody, at a depth of about 783 m, in the third quarter of this year. Sinking of the shaft will continue to a planned final depth of 980 m.
Surface construction for Platreef’s Shaft 2 is also progressing. Blasting and excavation of a boxcut to a depth of about 29 m below surface is under way, and construction of a concrete hitch for the headframe is expected to be completed by the end of this year.
Earlier this month, the company announced the signing of an agreement to provide local, treated bulk water for the first phase of production at Platreef. The agreement is for the supply of a minimum of 5-million litres of treated water a day for 32 years, starting in 2022, from the new Masodi treatment plant, in Mokopane. Platreef expects to begin receiving a small quantity of treated water this year, which will be used in ongoing underground mine development and surface infrastructure construction.
Based on the findings of an independent, definitive feasibility study issued in July 2017, the Platreef mine is projected to be Africa’s lowest-cost producer of platinum-group metals, with a cash cost of $351/oz of platinum, palladium, rhodium and gold net of by-products, including sustaining capital cost, the company states.