Ivanhoe reports early first concentrate from Kamoa-Kakula Phase 3 concentrator in DRC

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Ivanhoe Mines has reported the first concentrate from Kamoa-Kakula’s Phase 3 concentrator in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) on June 10, 2024, several months ahead of schedule.

Making the announcement ahead of his appearance at the 2024 Evercore Global Clean Energy & Transition Technologies Summit at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel in New York, Robert Friedland, the company’s Executive Co-Chair, said that the first concentrate production by Kamoa-Kakula’s Phase 3 concentrator was celebrated by the mine-site management and employees.

First copper concentrate was achieved approximately two weeks after the first feed of ore into the concentrator, as announced on May 28, 2024. The Phase 3 concentrator expansion was completed nearly two quarters ahead of schedule and is expected to boost production to over 600,000 tonnes of copper per annum, with ramp-up to commercial production targeted for early in the third quarter.

Processing capacity and expansion

The Phase 3 concentrator will process ore from the newly developed and adjacent Kamoa 1 and 2 underground mines, as well as connect the new Kansoko underground mine. At 5 million tonnes per annum (Mtpa), the design capacity of the Phase 3 concentrator is 30% larger than the original design capacities of the Phase 1 and 2 concentrators, located approximately 10 kilometres to the south.

The Phase 3 concentrator increases the total design processing capacity of the Kamoa-Kakula Copper Complex to 14.2 Mtpa. Phase 3 is expected to increase annualized copper production to greater than 600,000 tonnes per annum, positioning Kamoa-Kakula as the world’s third-largest copper mining complex, and the largest copper mine on the African continent.

Recent production and power improvements

Production from Kamoa-Kakula’s Phase 1 and 2 concentrators achieved a near record of 35,474 tonnes of copper in May. Production in May 2024, which was the best monthly performance of the past 12 months, benefitted from improved power stability since the end of the first quarter. Improved power stability has enabled increased mining rates of the higher-grade areas in the Kakula underground mine.

Improvements in power stability in recent months are due in large part to imported power from Zambia and Mozambique. An additional 20 megawatts (MW) of imported power have been secured since the beginning of June, increasing the total imported power consumed by the Kamoa-Kakula Copper Complex to 55 MW.

Subject to availability, it is expected that total imported power will increase up to 100 MW by the end of 2024. Kamoa-Kakula is expected to continue being supported by imported power until grid stability improves. A large majority of the imported power from Mozambique and Zambia is hydroelectric.

Collaboration with SNEL and backup capacity expansion

Kamoa Copper is working with the DRC’s state-owned power company, SNEL, to address grid instability in southern DRC, with improvements expected by 2025. Concurrently, Kamoa Copper is expanding its on-site backup power generator capacity to ensure redundancy for Phase 1, 2, and 3 operations, aiming to exceed 200 MW by the end of 2024. Generator farms are being built near the Phase 1 and 2 concentrators and smelter at Kakula, and near the Phase 3 concentrator at Kamoa.

Recently, 10 MW of new backup capacity was installed, bringing the immediate total to 73 MW. An additional 60 MW will be installed within a month, increasing total backup capacity to 133 MW by the end of July. Phase 1 and 2 operations require 105 MW, with the Phase 3 concentrator needing an additional 45 MW by the third quarter, and the smelter requiring 75 MW once fully operational.

Future expansion plans

Significant growth opportunities are progressing with ‘Project 95,’ Phase 3 de-bottlenecking, and accelerating Phase 4 expansion. Project 95 aims to increase the copper recovery rate of Kamoa-Kakula’s Phase 1 and 2 concentrators from 87% to 95%. After Phase 3 begins commercial production, Kamoa-Kakula will de-bottleneck it to boost capacity above 5 Mtpa. A similar program for Phase 1 and 2 increased capacity by 20% in February 2023.

The Phase 4 expansion will add a 5 Mtpa concentrator next to Phase 3, sharing infrastructure to cut costs. An updated life-of-mine plan, including these expansions and Project 95, is expected by the end of 2024.

Exploration is advancing on a 70,000-meter drill program at Ivanhoe’s Western Foreland license. About 10 drill rigs are active, aiming to expand high-grade copper discoveries and explore new targets.

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