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Kipushi zinc/copper/silver/germanium mine, Democratic Republic of Congo

Image of DRC flag and periodic table symbols for zinc/copper/silver/germanium

19th November 2021

By: Sheila Barradas

Creamer Media Research Coordinator & Senior Deputy Editor

     

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Name of the Project
Kipushi zinc/copper/silver/germanium mine.

Location
Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

Project Owner/s
Kipushi Corporation (KICO), a joint venture between Ivanhoe Mines (68%) and DRC State-owned mining company Gécamines (32%).

Project Description
The project entails the redevelopment of the historical high-grade Kipushi mine. Its development is based on a two-year construction timeline, which uses the significant existing surface and underground infrastructure already in place to allow for significantly lower capital costs than comparable greenfield development projects.

The positive 2017 prefeasibility study (PFS) focuses on the initial mining of Kipushi’s Big Zinc Zone, which has an estimated 11.78-million tonnes of measured and indicated mineral resources grading 35.34% zinc, 0.8% copper, 1.05% lead, 23 g/t silver, 13 parts per million of cobalt and 64 g/t germanium (Kipushi 2019 resource update).

The study envisages production of an average of 381 000 t/y of zinc, with a concentrate grade of 59% zinc over an 11-year initial mine life, which is expected to rank Kipushi, once in production, among the world’s largest zinc mines.

The planned primary mining method envisaged for the Big Zinc deposit is sublevel longhole, open stoping, with cemented backfill. The crown pillars are expected to be mined once adjacent stopes are backfilled using a pillar-retreat mining method. 

The Big Zinc deposit is expected to be accessed through the existing decline and without any significant new development. 

The main levels are planned to be at 60 m vertical intervals, with sublevels at 30 m intervals.

The planned process-plant design has been revised for the PFS. The optimised plant will employ dense-media separation, followed by milling and a flotation recovery plant. 

The addition of milling and a flotation recovery plant has resulted in an overall recovery of 89.6%, producing a consistent high-grade concentrate of 58.9% contained zinc. The improved concentrate grade results in lower transportation costs, compared with the Kipushi 2016 preliminary economic assessment.

Potential Job Creation
Not stated.

Net Present Value/Internal Rate of Return
The project has an after-tax net present value, at an 8% real discount rate, of $683-million and an after-tax real internal rate of return of 35.3%, with a payback of 2.2 years.

Capital Expenditure
Preproduction capital costs have been estimated at $337-million.

Planned Start/End Date
Not stated.

Latest Developments
A definitive feasibility study (DFS) for the Kipushi project is substantially complete, which builds on the results of the 2017 PFS.

The DFS envisages the restart of underground mining operations, together with the construction of a concentrator facility on surface with processing capacity of 800 000 t/y.

The draft DFS, together with the development and financing plan for Kipushi, are being reviewed by Ivanhoe Mines and its partner Gécamines. It is expected that these discussions will be concluded with the finalisation of the feasibility study and the agreement on the development and financing plan in the near future.

Although development and rehabilitation activities in 2020 and 2021 have been limited, significant progress has been made in recent years to modernise the Kipushi mine’s underground infrastructure as part of preparations for the mine to resume commercial production, including upgrading a series of vertical mine shafts to various depths, with the associated headframes, as well as underground mine excavations and infrastructure.

A series of crosscuts and ventilation infrastructure are still in working condition and have been cleared of old materials and equipment to facilitate modern, mechanised mining. The underground infrastructure also includes a series of high-capacity pumps to manage the mine’s water levels, which are now easily maintained at the bottom of the mine.

Shaft 5 is 8 m in diameter and 1 240 m deep, and has been upgraded and recommissioned. The main personnel and material winder has been upgraded and modernised to meet international industry standards and safety criteria.

The Shaft 5 rock-hoisting winder is also fully operational with new rock skips, new head- and tail-ropes, and attachments installed. The two newly manufactured rock conveyances (skips) and the supporting frames (bridles) have been installed in the shaft to facilitate the hoisting of rock from the main ore and waste storage silos feeding rock on the 1 200 m level.

Since temporarily suspending mine development operations, priority engineering tasks still continue, including new winder installations as a second means of egress on the cascade side, and repairs, as well as the replacement of main critical pump columns in Shaft 5 to ensure reliable and continued pumping of water from the mine.

Key Contracts, Suppliers and Consultants
OreWin, MSA, SRK Consulting (South Africa) and MDM (Technical) Africa, a division of Wood (technical report).

Contact Details for Project Information
Ivanhoe Mines (North America), tel +1 604 688 6630/+27 11 088 4300 (South Africa) or email info@ivanhoemines.com.

Edited by Creamer Media Reporter

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