Kamoa-Kakula Copper Complex, Democratic Republic of Congo – update

11th August 2023 By: Sheila Barradas - Creamer Media Research Coordinator & Senior Deputy Editor

Kamoa-Kakula Copper Complex, Democratic Republic of Congo – update

Photo by: Ivanhoe Mines

Name of the Project
Kamoa-Kakula Copper Complex.

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

Project Owner/s
Kamoa Copper – a joint venture 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 an 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 and 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 assessed an additional development option of mining several deposits on the Kamoa-Kakula project as an integrated, 19.2-million-tonne-a-year mining, processing and smelting complex, built in multiple stages.

At the end of January 2023, Ivanhoe announced the positive findings of an independent integrated development plan (2023 IDP) for the project. The 2023 IDP consists of a PFS (Kamoa-Kakula 2023 PFS) for the Phase 3 and Phase 4 expansions of the complex over a 33-year life-of-mine (LoM), as well as an updated PEA (Kamoa-Kakula 2023 PEA) that includes an LoM extension case to 42 years overall.

Kamoa-Kakula 2023 PFS – Phase 3 and 4 expansion, involves a staged increase in nameplate production of up to 19.2-million tonnes a year over a 33-year LoM.

The first stage is the debottlenecking of the operational Phase 1 and Phase 2 concentrators from the current nameplate capacity of 7.6-million tonnes a year to 9.2-million tonnes a year by the second quarter of 2023.

The Phase 1 and 2 concentrators will process ore initially from the Kakula mine, which is being expanded to meet this capacity, and then supported by the Kakula West mine from 2029.

This will be followed by the construction of the five-million-tonne-a-year Phase 3 concentrator. This concentrator will be fed with ore from the existing Kansoko Sud mine, and the Kamoa 1 and 2 mines under development.

Phase 3 is planned to coincide with the commissioning of a direct-to-blister flash copper smelter capable of producing 500 000 t/y of copper in the form of 99+% anode or blister. In addition, the smelter will produce 650 000 t/y to 800 000 t/y of high-strength sulphuric acid for sale in the domestic DRC market.

The final stage is Phase 4, an additional five-million-tonne-a-year concentrator, which will take the total processing capacity to 19.2-million tonnes a year, fed by an expansion of the Kamoa mines.

Kamoa and Kakula will supply a blend of copper concentrate for the smelter as the ore reserve grade tapers over time.

Kamoa-Kakula 2023 PEA – LoM extension case, proposes a nine-year LoM extension of the Kamoa-Kakula Copper Complex, in addition to the Kamoa-Kakula 2023 PFS.

This case includes the addition of four new underground mines in the Kamoa area – Kamoa 3, 4, 5 and 6 – to maintain the overall production rate of up to 19.2-million tonnes year.

The Kamoa-Kakula PEA is preliminary and includes an economic analysis that is based, in part, on inferred mineral resources.

These resources are considered too speculative geologically for the application of economic considerations that would allow for their being categorised as mineral reserves and there is no certainty that the results will be realised.

Potential Job Creation
Kamoa-Kakula has generated more than 12 000 jobs from its operations and construction activities, with more than 95% of those positions filled by Congolese nationals.

About 2 000 construction workers were working at the smelter site in July 2023, and this workforce is expected to peak at 3 000 in December 2023.

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 LoM, 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 LoM, with a payback of 2.5 years.

The Kamoa-Kakula 2020 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.

The Kamoa-Kakula 2023 PFS case yields an after-tax NPV, at an 8% discount rate, of $19.1-billion at a long-term copper price of $3.70/lb.

The Kamoa-Kakula 2023 PEA case yields an after-tax NPV, at an 8% discount rate, of $20.2-billion.

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 2020 PFS estimates peak funding at $848-million, remaining initial capital costs at $695-million and expansion capital costs at $750-million.

The Kamoa-Kakula 2020 PEA estimates peak funding at $784-million, remaining initial capital costs at $715-million and expansion capital costs at $4.46-billion.

The Kamoa-Kakula 2023 PFS estimates the remaining capital cost for the total Phase 3 expansion at $3-billion, including the mine, concentrator, smelter, infrastructure and investment in off-site hydropower infrastructure.

Planned Start/End Date
The initial production of copper concentrate at the Kakula mine processing plant began on May 25, 2021, with commercial production achieved on July 1, 2021.

The Phase 2 concentrator started commercial production in April 2022, four months ahead of schedule.

The Phase 3 concentrator is on schedule to be commissioned in the fourth quarter of 2024.

Latest Developments
Record quarterly production of 103 786 t of copper in concentrate was achieved at Kamoa-Kakula for the quarter ended June 30, 2023, compared with 93 603 t in the previous quarter and 87 314 t in the previous year’s second quarter.

Over the first six months of the year, Kamoa-Kakula produced 197 389 t of copper in concentrate, placing it well on track to deliver yearly production guidance of between 390 000 t and 430 000 t of copper.

Kamoa-Kakula's Phase 1 and 2 concentrators milled a record 2.2-million tonnes of ore during the second quarter at an average feed grade of 5.2% copper. This included high-grade, run-of-mine ore from the Kakula mine, supplemented with ore from the surface stockpiles to achieve throughput higher than original design capacity.

Kamoa-Kakula's Phase 3 mine and concentrator expansion, 500 000 t/y on-site, direct-to-blister copper smelter and the refurbishment of Turbine No 5 at the Inga II hydroelectric facility are advancing on schedule and are expected to be completed in late 2024.

At current copper prices, it is expected that cash flow from Kamoa-Kakula’s Phase 1 and 2 operations will be sufficient to fund the remaining 2023 and 2024 expansion capital cost requirements of about $2.1-billion.

Ivanhoe is continuing its expansive copper exploration programme on its Western Foreland licences adjacent to Kamoa-Kakula.

The 2023 exploration programme is budgeted at about $19-million.

Thirty-seven holes and 10 853 m were completed during the quarter following the conclusion of the wet season in May. A total of 15 736 m of diamond core were drilled in the first half of the year.

Ivanhoe is on schedule to publish a maiden mineral resource estimate for its Makoko and Kiala high-grade copper discoveries in the Western Foreland in the next quarter.

Key Contracts, Suppliers and Consultants
Kakula DFS/ Kakula-Kansoko PFS/ Kamoa-Kakula PEA: OreWin (overall report preparation, mining, logistics, power and economic analysis); China Nerin Engineering (smelter design and basic engineering contract for the smelter); 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); Kamoa Copper and SNEL, together with Stucky SA (engineering, procurement and construction management – Turbine 5); Voith Hydro (contractor Turbine 5); and Metso Outotec (direct blister furnace).

Kamoa-Kakula 2023 PFS/Kamoa-Kakula 2023 PEA: OreWin; China Nerin Engineering; DRA Global; Epoch Resources; Golder Associates Africa; Metso-Outotec Oyj; Paterson and Cooke; SRK Consulting; and MSA Group.

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