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On 31 May, 2021, Kamoa Copper signed a 10-year agreement with the Lualaba Copper Smelter (LCS), located outside the town of Kolwezi, for the processing of a portion of Kamoa’s copper concentrate production.

Kamoa Copper delivered its first copper concentrates to the Lualaba smelter on 1 June. LCS is 60%-owned by China Nonferrous Metal Mining Group (CNMC) of Beijing, China. Yunnan Copper of Kunming, China, owns the other 40%.

The agreement follows Ivanhoe Mines and CNMC entering into a strategic partnership with LCS on August 18, 2020, and concludes a negotiation that took place over the last year.

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In addition, Ivanhoe Mines’ Co-Chairs Robert Friedland and Yufeng “Miles” Sun have announced that commissioning and ramp up of the Kamoa-Kakula Phase 1, 3.8 Mtpa concentrator plant have progressed safely and quickly toward nameplate capacity.

Kamoa-Kakula’s initial copper concentrate was produced on 25 May.

First ore was introduced into the concentrator plant on 20 May and the start of copper concentrate production occurred on 25 May, several months ahead of schedule.

As of 27 May, 71,000 tonnes of ore grading 4.07% copper had been conveyed directly from Kakula’s underground operations to the concentrator. The team currently is busy with hot commissioning and ramp up of the concentrator.

A total of 406,000 tonnes grading 5.77% copper was mined in May and comprised 365,000 tonnes grading 5.89% copper from the Kakula Mine, including 103,000 tonnes grading 8.58% copper from the mine’s high-grade centre, and 41,000 tonnes grading 4.68% copper from the Kansoko Mine.

The ore mined in May contained a record 23,400 tonnes of copper. Approximately 20,600 tonnes of contained copper was delivered to the surface stockpiles and the balance was delivered directly to the concentrator plant.

The project’s pre-production surface stockpiles now contain approximately 3.3 Mt of high-grade and medium-grade ore at an estimated, blended average of 4.87% copper. Contained copper in the stockpiles at the end of May now totals more than 160,000 tonnes (the current copper price is approximately US$10,200 a tonne).

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Mark Farren, Kamoa Copper’s CEO, remarked:

“We are delighted with the progress we have made at the Phase 1 concentrator. As promised at the end of April, we have managed to move into full C4 concentrator commissioning ahead of plan, and we now are producing copper concentrate.

“The next challenge for the processing team is to ramp up the concentrator to nameplate capacity and reach our planned recovery targets.

“The mining team has continued to perform really well, with volumes consistently around the 400,000-tonne-per-month mark. This remains above the steady-state requirements of the Phase 1 concentrator. We will continue to monitor our mining performance against the ramp-up plan of the Phase 2 concentrator to ensure a smooth and efficient ramp up to steady-state production during 2022.”

Steve Amos, Kamoa Copper’s Head of Projects, commented:

“We have been very pleased with the smooth start-up and performance of the Phase 1 plant to date. Our in-country construction, commissioning and operations personnel from both the contractor’s and owner’s teams have done a great job of completing construction and cold commissioning of the plant in a timely manner. We now are in the final process of hot  commissioning and ramp up.”

Ivanhoe’s guidance for contained copper in concentrate expected to be produced by Kamoa-Kakula for the balance of 2021 is 80,000 to 95,000 tonnes. The figures are on a 100%-project basis and metal reported in concentrate is prior to refining losses or deductions associated with smelter terms.