Canadian major Ivanhoe Mines on Monday published a mineral resource estimate update for its Kipushi zinc/copper/silver/germanium project in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), increasing the past-producing mine’s zinc-rich resources by 16% and copper-rich resources by 40%.
The new estimate, which will be incorporated into the pending definitive feasibility study for the project, increased the measured and indicated zinc-rich resources from 10.2-million tonnes in 2016 to 11.8-million tonnes at a grade of 35.34%, containing 9.2-billion pounds of zinc, 8.7-million ounces of silver and 24.4-million ounces of germanium.
The mine’s measured and indicated copper-rich resources increased from 1.6-million tonnes to 2.3-million tonnes, at a grade of 4.03%, containing 204-million pounds of copper, 1.6-million ounces silver and 1.4-million ounces germanium.
Executive chairperson Robert Friedland said that the new resource estimate was positive for mine planning purposes, adding another 1.6-million tonnes of measured and indicated zinc-rich resources and, at the same time, improving the overall zinc grade of the resources.
“We have always believed that Kipushi held the potential to host significantly more high-grade zinc, copper, silver and germanium resources than were initially reported in the mineral inventory when we acquired our 68% interest in the mine in 2011.
“Kipushi operated for more than 60 years as a high-grade copper mine, with significant germanium production, before it was placed on care-and-maintenance in the 1990s. With continued exploration success, we are confident Kipushi could remain in production for at least several more decades,” he said in a statement.
Ivanhoe’s initial mine plan focuses on mining Kipushi’s exceptionally high-grade Big Zinc deposit, but the firm believes that the adjacent Fault Splay and Southern Zinc zones are also compelling, near-term development targets as they have thick, zinc-rich mineralisation zones grading up to 45% zinc.
The copper-rich zones also offer further opportunities to expand and diversify the mine plan once production starts.
Friedland said that Ivanhoe and the Gécamines technical team were continuing to investigate additional downstream processing options, given the project’s very high grade zinc resource and potential by-product credits, one of which is germanium.
This strategic metal that is a key component of fibre-optic systems, infrared optics, high-efficiency solar cell applications and light-emitting diodes. The current spot price of germanium is a $1 900/kg.
The new estimate was based on the results of the 58 new drill holes completed at Kipushi by Ivanhoe Mines in 2017, 84 drill holes completed by Ivanhoe Mines prior to 2016 and an additional 107 historical holes drilled by Gécamines.
The Kipushi mine, near the Zambian border, is operated by Kipushi Corporation, a joint venture between Ivanhoe Mines (68%) and Gécamines (32%), the DRC’s State-owned mining company.
Investors cheered the new mineral resource update, with Ivanhoe’s share price on the TSX gaining nearly 5% to C$2.55 apiece.