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Kamoa-Kakula copper project, Democratic Republic of Congo – update

Aerial image of the Kamoa-Kakula copper project

8th October 2021

By: Sheila Barradas

Creamer Media Research Coordinator & Senior Deputy Editor


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Name of the Project
Kamoa-Kakula copper project.

The Kolwezi district of Lualaba province, in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

Project Owner/s
Kamoa Copper, a joint venture (JV) between base and precious metals developer Ivanhoe Mines, with 39.6% ownership; Zijin Mining Group, with 39.6% ownership; Crystal River Global, with 0.8% ownership; and the DRC government, with 20% ownership.

Project Description
Ivanhoe Mines has announced outstanding economic results in the independent integrated development plan for the tier-one Kamoa-Kakula copper project.

The Kamoa-Kakula Integrated Development Plan 2020 comprises three development scenarios: the Kakula definitive feasibility study (DFS), the Kakula-Kansoko prefeasibility study (PFS) and the Kamoa-Kakula preliminary economic assessment (PEA).

The Kakula DFS proposes the development of a Stage 1, six-million-tonne-a-year underground mine and surface processing complex at the Kakula deposit, with a capacity of 7.6-million tonnes a year built in two modules of 3.8-million tonnes a year. For this option, 110-million tonnes will be mined at an average grade of 5.22% copper, producing 8.5-million tonnes of high-grade copper concentrate, containing about 10.8-billion pounds of copper.

The Kakula-Kansoko 2020 PFS evaluates the development of mining activities at the Kansoko deposit in addition to the Kakula mine, initially at a rate of 1.6-million tonnes a year, to supply the concentrator at Kakula, eventually ramping up to six-million tonnes a year as the reserves at Kakula are depleted.

The Kamoa-Kakula 2020 PEA assesses an additional development option of mining several deposits on the Kamoa-Kakula project as an integrated, 19-million-tonne-a-year mining, processing and smelting complex, built in multiple stages.

An initial six-million-tonne-a-year mining operation will be established at the Kakula mine on the Kakula deposit, which will be followed by a separate six-million-tonne-a-year mining operation at the Kansoko mine. A third six-million-tonne-a-year mine will then be established at the Kakula West mine, in addition to a fourth initial mine in the Kamoa North area operating at one-million tonnes a year. The processing plant will be built in five modules of 3.8-million tonnes a year, with an ultimate capacity of one-million tonnes a year.

As the resources at the Kakula, Kansoko and Kakula West mines are mined out, production will begin sequentially at five other mines in the Kamoa North area to maintain throughput of 19-million tonnes a year to the existing concentrator and smelter complex.

Each mining operation is expected to be a separate underground mine, with a shared processing facility and surface infrastructure located at Kakula. Material will be transported to the Kakula processing complex by a system of overland conveyors. Included in this scenario is the construction of a direct-to-blister copper smelter with a capacity of one-million tonnes of copper concentrate a year.

Potential Job Creation
Once the two processing plants at Kakula are operating, Ivanhoe expects to employ almost 2 000 permanent Kamoa employees.

Net Present Value/Internal Rate of Return
The Kakula DFS yields an after-tax net present value (NPV), at an 8% discount rate, of $5.5-billion and an internal rate of return (IRR) of 77% over a 21-year mine life, with a payback of 2.3 years.

The Kakula-Kansoko PFS yields an after-tax NPV, at an 8% discount rate, of $6.6-billion and an IRR of 69% over a 37-year mine life, with a payback of 2.5 years.

The Kamoa-Kakula PEA yields a potential after-tax NPV, at an 8% discount rate, of $11.1-billion and an IRR of 56% over a mine life of more than 40 years, with a payback of 3.6 years.

Capital Expenditure
The Kakula DFS estimates peak funding at $775-million, remaining initial capital costs at $646-million and expansion capital costs at $594-million.

The Kakula-Kansoko PFS estimates peak funding at $848-million, remaining initial capital costs at $695-million and expansion capital costs at $750-million.

The Kamoa-Kakula PEA estimates peak funding at $784-million, remaining initial capital costs at $715-million and expansion capital costs at $4.46-billion.

Planned Start/End Date
Initial production of copper concentrate at the Kakula Mine processing plant began on May 25, 2021.

The expansion of the Kakula processing plant will be brought forward from the first quarter of 2023 to the third quarter of 2022.

Latest Developments
The 3.8-million-tonne-a-year Phase 1 concentrator at the Kamoa-Kakula mine milled 319 795 t of ore in September, exceeding the monthly design run rate of 316 667 t.

A total of 16 010 t of copper in concentrate were produced (filtered product) and a total of 16 503 t floated in the reporting month ended September – Kamoa Copper's fourth full month of production – establishing a new monthly record and nearing the Phase 1 target output of 16 666 t a month, or 200 000 t/y.

The difference between filtered and floated copper is about 500 t in inventory in the concentrate thickener and the filter feed tank, Ivanhoe has noted.

The average floated concentrate copper grade in September improved to 55.7%, up from about 48% in August.

A total of 46 764 t of copper in concentrate has been produced in the year to date for delivery to either the Lualaba copper smelter near Kolwezi or to international markets.

Copper flotation recoveries improved to an average of 85.1% during September, up from an average of 83% during August. The Phase 1, steady-state-design copper recovery is about 86%, depending on ore feed grade.

A daily record copper recovery of 88.3% was achieved on September 12 and a daily floated copper production of 721 t was achieved on September 15.

Several adjustments are being made to the Phase 1 processing circuit to enable the concentrator to achieve better results in the next quarter.

Kamoa-Kakula is fast-tracking the commissioning of an additional concentrate filter, which has been installed alongside the Phase 1 filter, to take advantage of copper feed grades and milling rates in excess of design parameters. The additional concentrate filter is expected to be fully operational in early October, enabling the Phase 1 concentrator to produce more copper than its design capacity of about 200 000 t/y.

Meanwhile, construction of the 3.8-million-tonne-a-year Phase 2 concentrator plant is also progressing well, with the overall project more than 50% complete. Engineering and procurement activities are effectively complete, with fabrication at 86% completion.

Civil construction works also are effectively complete, with the focus now on the erection of structural steel and the installation of platework and equipment. A 400 t crane has arrived on site and has been used to lift the tailings thickener rake into position.

The crane will also be used to install the ball mills, the ball mill shells, girth gear and ball mill ends, all of which are on site.

The bulk of the 2 193 t of structural steel and the 570 t of platework is on site and the bulk of the 18 644 m of piping is on its way to site.

The 6 km of tailings return water piping has been delivered to site and installation is nearing completion.

The Phase 2 concentrator remains on track for completion in the third quarter of 2022. 

Key Contracts, Suppliers and Consultants
OreWin (overall report preparation, mining, logistics, power and economic analysis); China Nerin Engineering (smelter design); DRA Global (mine surface infrastructure and metallurgical processing); Epoch Resources (tailings storage facility design); Golder Associates (hydrology models and recommendations); KGHM Cuprum R&D Centre (technical adviser on certain mining methods and geotechnical); Outotec Oyj (smelter technology); Paterson and Cooke (paste backfill plant design and surface/underground paste distribution system); SRK Consulting (mine geotechnical recommendations); Stantec Consulting International (mining and mineral reserves), Wood (mineral resources estimation) and Kamoa Copper and SNEL, together with Stucky SA (engineering procurement and construction management – Turbine 5) and Voith Hydro (contractor Turbine 5), have started a technical assessment to define the scope of work and associated-costs estimate.

Contact Details for Project Information
Ivanhoe Mines, tel +1604 688 6630 (North America), +27 11 088 4300 (South Africa) or email

Edited by Creamer Media Reporter


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