Kamoa-Kakula Phase 3 concentrator achieves first production ahead of schedule

11th June 2024 By: Marleny Arnoldi - Deputy Editor Online

Kamoa-Kakula Phase 3 concentrator achieves first production ahead of schedule

Kamoa-Kakula, in DRC

Canada-headquartered miner Ivanhoe Mines has achieved first concentrate production at the Kamoa-Kakula operation’s Phase 3 concentrator, in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

The Phase 3 concentrator was completed nearly two quarters ahead of schedule and is expected to increase Kamoa-Kakula’s output to more than 600 000 t/y of copper once it is fully ramped up.

The new concentrator is processing ore from the newly developed Kamoa 1 and 2 underground mines.

At five-million tonnes a year, the design capacity of the Phase 3 concentrator is 30% greater than the design capacities of the Phase 1 and 2 concentrators, which are located 10 km from the site of the third concentrator.

The Phase 1 and 2 concentrators produced 35 474 t of copper in May, marking the best performance in the past 12 months. Ivanhoe reports that the concentrators benefitted from improved power stability since the end of March, enabling increased mining rates of higher-grade areas in the Kakula underground mine.

With the addition of the third concentrator, Kamoa-Kakula is now the third-largest copper mining complex in the world, following Escondida and Grasberg, in Chile and Indonesia, respectively. It is also the largest copper operation on the African continent.

Kamoa-Kakula is expected to continue being supported by imported power until grid stability improves, with the operation currently importing a large quantity of hydroelectric power from Zambia and Mozambique.

Kamoa Copper, as the operating company, is working with the State-owned power company La Société Nationale d’Electricité to deliver grid improvements across southern DRC, which are expected to be completed in 2025.

Additionally, the company is rolling out back-up generation capacity on site, increasing its back-up capacity from 70 MW currently to more than 200 MW by the end of the year.

The third concentrator alone requires 75 MW of power once fully ramped up, while the first and second concentrators require a combined 105 MW.

Ivanhoe and Zijin Mining have shareholdings of 39.6%, respectively, in Kamoa Copper, while the DRC government holds 20% and Chinese investment company Crystal River Global holds 0.8%.

Meanwhile, Kamoa Copper is almost complete with basic engineering of Project 95 – an initiative targeting increased metallurgical copper recovery of the Phase 1 and 2 concentrators. The current recovery rate of the concentrators is estimated at 87%, with Project 95 aiming for a rate of 95%.

Once the Phase 3 concentrator is fully ramped up, the company will start a debottlenecking programme to further increase the concentrator’s processing capacity to more than five-million tonnes a year.

A Phase 4 concentrator is in the works and will be located adjacent to the Phase 3 concentrator. It is also being designed with a processing capacity of five-million tonnes a year.

Given the additional processing capacity coming online and optimisation initiatives progressing, Kamoa Copper aims to publish an updated life-of-mine for the Kamoa-Kakula complex by the end of the year.

Ivanhoe is also progressing a 70 000 m drill programme on its majority-owned Western Foreland licence package that is adjacent to Kamoa-Kakula. There are currently ten drill rigs active on the Makoko and Kitoko prospects of the licence.