Katanga expected to announce the financing in the “near term” and planned to close the facility by the end of the year, in order to start drawing on the loan in the first half of next year, with repayment to begin in 2011.
The company, which is consolidating, rehabilitating and expanding the neighhbouring Kamoto and KOV operations after merging with rival Nikanor earlier this year, plans to complete a feasibility study on the enlarged project by the end of September, president and CEO Athur Ditto said on a conference call.
The results of the feasibility study would also determine the final scope of the project finance facility.
This year, Katanga will start building a solvent-extraction electrowinning (SX/EW) facility, continue with the rehabilitation of the Kamoto operation, begin construction of an acid plant and, in the fourth quarter, start mining at KOV.
The SX/EW refinery will be build in three modules, and construction of the first module – with a capacity of about 80 000 t/y of copper – is scheduled for completion by the end of 2009.
The first two modules were expected to be up and running by 2011, enabling the company to more than double production at the operation, Ditto said.
Katanga produced 3 946 t of copper cathode during the first three months of 2008, and began producing cobalt metal at the Luilu plant on May 3, Ditto reported.
The company expects full year production to reach 33 500 t of copper and 2 900 t of cobalt.
It will complete the second phase of rehabilitation at Kamoto this year, as well as starting mining at KOV.
Ditto said that, while the security of power supply to Katanga's operations remained “an issue that requires careful attention”, the company was confident that it had secured enough electricity for its needs until the end of 2009.
It also had a dedicated team which worked “daily” with the power utility in the DRC and other stakeholders to ensure power availability going forward.
The company expects to require about 300 MW by 2011 and “we think we've got a programme well enough defined”, Ditto said.
The firm is also in the process of renegotiating its joint-venture agreements with the DRC State mine Gecamines.
The new agreements would address the comments from the country's mining contract review and consolidate Katanga's and Nikanor's agreements with Gecamines into one contract, as well as a couple of other changes already announced by the company.
Commenting on reports on Wednesday that the DRC's Katanga province had halted the export of raw cobalt metal, Jones said that the company had been in contact with the government and had did not expect that the measure would affect the company.
Shares in Katanga declined 5,56% on Wednesday morning, to C$10,70 a share by 10:57 in Toronto.