HomeBase MetalsKamoa-Kakula projected to produce 200,000 tonnes of copper per year

Kamoa-Kakula projected to produce 200,000 tonnes of copper per year

Ivanhoe Mines has announced its financial results for the three and six months ended June 30, 2021. Ivanhoe is advancing its three mining projects in Southern Africa: The Kamoa-Kakula copper mining complex in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC); the Platreef palladium-rhodium-platinum-nickel-copper-gold discovery in South Africa; and the extensive upgrading of the historic Kipushi zinc-copper-lead-germanium mine, also in the DRC. Ivanhoe also is exploring for new copper discoveries on its Western Foreland exploration licences in the DRC, near the Kamoa-Kakula Project.


The Kamoa-Kakula Project, a joint venture between Ivanhoe Mines and Zijin Mining, has been independently ranked as the world’s fourth-largest copper deposit by international mining consultant Wood Mackenzie.

The project is approximately 25 kilometres west of the town of Kolwezi and about 270 kilometres west of Lubumbashi. The Kamoa-Kakula Project began producing copper in May 2021 and achieved commercial production on July 1, 2021.

Ivanhoe sold a 49.5% share interest in Kamoa Holding to Zijin Mining and a 1% share interest in Kamoa Holding to privately-owned Crystal River in December 2015. Since the conclusion of the Zijin transaction, each shareholder has been required to fund expenditures at the Kamoa-Kakula Project in an amount equivalent to its proportionate shareholding interest in Kamoa Holding.

A 5%, non-dilutable interest in the Kamoa-Kakula Project was transferred to the DRC government on September 11, 2012, for no consideration, pursuant to the 2002 DRC mining code. Following the signing of an agreement with the DRC government in November 2016, in which an additional 15% interest in the Kamoa-Kakula Project was transferred to the DRC government, Ivanhoe and Zijin Mining now each hold an indirect 39.6% interest in the Kamoa-Kakula Project, Crystal River holds an indirect 0.8% interest and the DRC government holds a direct 20% interest. Kamoa Holding holds an 80% interest in the project.

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Overall progress of Kamoa-Kakula’s first phase, 3.8-Mtpa mining and milling operation (covering mine infrastructure, concentrator plant and surface infrastructure) was very nearly complete at the end of Q2 2021. The only major construction activity that still was outstanding was the backfill plant which was completed in July 2021, with the first paste to be delivered to underground stopes in August 2021.

The backfill plant will be used to mix tailings from the processing plant with cement to produce paste backfill. The backfill will be pumped back into the mine and used to help support mined-out areas. Approximately one-half of the mine’s tailings will be sent back underground, significantly reducing the surface tailings storage. Construction of the tailings storage facility has been completed and first tailings deposited.

Overall construction of the project’s first phase, 3.8-Mtpa concentrator plant and associated facilities is complete, with C4 or hot commissioning advancing according to plan. First ore was introduced into the ball mills on May 20, 2021, and first saleable concentrate was filtered on May 25, 2021, marking the start of concentrate production. Lower-grade ore was fed into the plant during initial hot commissioning and the feed grade has since been increased.

The Kamoa-Kakula Project was deemed to have reached commercial production on July 1, 2021, after achieving a milling rate in excess of 80% of design capacity and recoveries close to 70% for a continuous, seven-day period. Revenue recognition, as well as depreciation of Kamoa-Kakula’s first phase, 3.8-Mtpa concentrator plant and milling operation, commenced from this date.

Approximately 500,000 tonnes of ore had been milled by early August 2021. Copper production has steadily increased since hot commissioning began at the end of May 2021. Copper production exceeded 500 tonnes per day on occasion during July, nearing the Phase 1 steady-state design capacity of approximately 550 tonnes per day, or 200,000 tonnes per year. During August, the focus of the commissioning team will shift from the front-end crushing and milling circuit to balancing and optimizing the flotation and regrind milling areas. This is expected to further improve concentrate grade and recovery.

Copper recoveries increased from an average of approximately 70% in June 2021 to approximately 81% in July 2021, progressively increasing toward the Phase 1 steady-state design copper recoveries of approximately 86%.

As at June 30, 2021, contained copper in concentrate produced by the Kamoa-Kakula Project amounted to 9,858 tonnes. Ivanhoe’s guidance for contained copper in concentrate expected to be produced by the Kamoa-Kakula Project for 2021 assumes ramp-up from first production continues in line with published technical disclosures.

Construction of Kamoa-Kakula’s Phase 2 expansion is more than 35% complete; Phase 3 studies are progressing

Construction of the second 3.8-Mtpa concentrator plant is progressing well toward a Q3 2022 start-up with the current focus on the completion of civil works and early structural steel erection. Civil works are over 80% complete with a number of areas handed over to the steel, mechanical, piping and platework contractor.

Engineering and procurement activities are well advanced with both approximately 80% complete. Structural steel, platework and major equipment has started arriving on site and steel erection in the high-pressure grinding rolls and tailings thickening areas has commenced. The bulk of the structural steel and platework is scheduled to be on site in early Q3 2021. Piping fabrication is advancing well with some piping en route to site.

Ivanhoe and its partner Zijin are exploring the acceleration of the Kamoa-Kakula Phase 3 concentrator expansion, which may be fed from expanded mining operations at Kansoko, or new mining areas at Kamoa North (including the Bonanza Zone) and Kakula West.

Study work for the Phase 3 mine and concentrator expansion is underway, which includes optimization work to determine mining production capacity and costs at the various mining areas. This work also will inform the optimal sizing of the Phase 3 concentrator, which was outlined as a further expansion of 3.8 Mtpa in the Kamoa-Kakula Integrated Development Plan announced in September 2020. In addition, the studies will take into consideration the plans to upgrade Turbine 5 at the Inga II hydropower complex to provide 162 megawatts of renewable hydropower, as well as the construction of a direct-to-blister smelter.

Once the optimization work is completed, Kamoa Copper will advance into a more detailed phase of design and engineering work with its objective to accelerate the Phase 3 concentrator expansion.

Ore stockpiles now hold approximately 3.54 million tonnes grading 4.77% copper, containing more than 168,000 tonnes of copper

At the end of March 2021, Kamoa-Kakula’s pre-production surface stockpiles contained approximately 2.56 million tonnes of high-grade and medium-grade ore at an estimated blended grade of 4.60% copper, containing more than 117,000 tonnes of copper.

The project’s combined medium-grade and high-grade ore mined was approximately 409,000 tonnes at an average grade of 5.71% copper in April 2021; approximately 406,000 tonnes at an average grade of 5.77% copper in May 2021; and approximately 338,000 tonnes at an average grade of 4.59% copper in June 2021.

This brings the project’s total pre-production high- and medium-grade ore surface stockpiles to approximately 3.40 million tonnes at an estimated grade of 4.78% copper as of the end of June 2021.

A total of 414,000 tonnes grading 5.16% copper was mined in July 2021 and comprised 367,000 tonnes grading 5.29% copper from the Kakula Mine, including 85,000 tonnes grading 7.70% copper from the mine’s high-grade centre, and 47,000 tonnes grading 4.13% copper from the Kansoko Mine.

First ore was fed into the concentrator plant on May 20, 2021, and the start of copper concentrate production occurred on May 25, 2021, several months ahead of schedule. As of June 30, 2021, 313,000 tonnes of ore grading 4.85% copper had been conveyed to the run-of-mine (ROM) stockpile.

Kamoa-Kakula’s off-take agreements signed for Phase 1 blister copper and copper concentrate

On June 9, 2021, Kamoa Copper signed off-take agreements with CITIC Metal and Gold Mountains International Mining Company, a subsidiary of Zijin, for 50% each of the copper products from Kamoa-Kakula’s Phase 1 production. The off-take agreements are evergreen for the production volumes from Phase 1, including copper concentrate and blister copper resulting from processing of copper concentrates at the nearby Lualaba Copper Smelter.

The off-take agreements contain standard, international commercial terms, including copper payables and treatment and refining charges based on the annual benchmark across the copper industry. The ultra-high-grade, clean concentrate produced by Kamoa-Kakula is expected to contain approximately 57% copper and very low levels of impurities.

CITIC Metal and Zijin are purchasing the copper concentrate at the Kakula Mine and the blister copper at the Lualaba Copper Smelter on a free-carrier basis, meaning the buyers will be responsible for arranging freight and shipment to the final destination, initially via the port of Durban, South Africa.

CITIC Metal and Zijin each provided an advance payment facility of $150 million ($300 million in total), which was drawn at the election of Kamoa Copper and received in June 2021. The facility carries an annual interest rate of 8% and will be offset against provisional payments due to Kamoa Copper from product deliveries. Payment terms include an option to receive a provisional payment on a 100%-basis within three business days of invoicing, at the end of each delivery month.

Agreement signed with Lualaba Copper Smelter to produce 99% blister copper in the DRC

On May 31, 2021, Kamoa Copper signed a 10-year agreement with the Lualaba Copper Smelter, located outside the town of Kolwezi, for the processing of a portion of Kamoa’s copper concentrate production. Kamoa Copper delivered its first bulk copper concentrates to the Lualaba Copper Smelter on June 1, 2021, and since then, deliveries to the smelter have been occurring on a daily basis. The Lualaba Copper Smelter is 60%-owned by China Nonferrous Metal Mining Group (CNMC) of Beijing, China. Yunnan Copper of Kunming, China, owns the remaining 40%.

The smelter, which began operations in early 2020, will treat up to 150,000 wet metric tonnes of copper concentrates from Kamoa-Kakula, in return for a treatment charge and market-based realization fee, and produce blister copper containing approximately 99% copper that will be returned to Kamoa Copper, and collected by CITIC Metal and Zijin from a dedicated storage area at the Lualaba Copper Smelter.

The Lualaba Copper Smelter is the first modern, large, pyro-metallurgical copper smelter built in the DRC, and is approximately 40 kilometres from Kamoa-Kakula via the recently-constructed, dedicated by-pass road.

The first truckloads of Kamoa-Kakula’s blister copper ingots, containing approximately 99% copper, were exported from the Lualaba Copper Smelter to international markets in July 2021.

Kamoa-Kakula begins exporting copper concentrate internationally as production ramps up

Kamoa Copper SA began exporting its copper concentrate internationally in July 2021. The first truckloads of copper concentrate destined for smelters outside of the DRC departed from the mine site on July 17, 2021, marking a significant milestone in the ongoing ramp-up of Kamoa-Kakula’s Phase 1, 3.8-Mtpa concentrator plant.

By early August 2021, approximately 32,700 tonnes of copper concentrate had been loaded at the mine site for delivery to either the Lualaba Copper Smelter, or to international markets.

Kamoa Copper received all necessary authorizations from the DRC government to export copper concentrate and blister copper on June 8, 2021.

Kamoa-Kakula connected to the national power grid, providing clean, renewable 220-kV hydropower

The mine is receiving hydroelectric power via the permanent 35-kilometre, 220-kilovolt (kV) power line, supplying the project with reliable and clean hydro-generated electricity from the national grid.

The main mine 220-kilovolt Kamoa Consumer Substation (KCS) has been energized on grid power, as has the 33kV KCS substation. The main plant 33kV substation and all the plant medium-voltage and low-voltage substations also are energized.

Agreement reached to upgrade major turbine at the Inga II hydropower facility

On April 26, 2021, Ivanhoe announced that Ivanhoe Mines Energy DRC, a subsidiary of Kamoa Holding and sister company of Kamoa Copper SA, tasked with delivering reliable, clean, renewable hydropower to the Kamoa-Kakula Project, signed a memorandum of understanding in a public-private partnership with the DRC’s state-owned power company SNEL to upgrade a turbine 5, a major turbine at the existing Inga II hydropower facility on the Congo River. The upgraded turbine is expected to produce 162 MW of clean, renewable hydropower, providing the Kamoa-Kakula Copper Mine with sufficient, sustainable electricity for future expansions, including its own copper smelter.

A definitive agreement superseding the memorandum of understanding has been prepared and is expected to be signed imminently.

Ongoing upgrading work enables Mwadingusha hydropower station to supply clean, sustainable electricity

The upgrading work of six new turbines at the Mwadingusha hydropower plant, the first public-private partnership between Ivanhoe Mines Energy DRC and SNEL, is nearing completion and is expected to soon deliver approximately 78 MW of electricity to the national electrical grid, to provide power for Kamoa-Kakula’s initial two phases of production to 7.6 Mtpa. Five of the six new turbines at the Mwadingusha hydropower plant now have been synchronized to the national electrical grid, with each generating unit producing approximately 13 MW of power. The completion and commissioning of the hydropower plant’s remaining one generating unit is in progress. The synchronization of this last unit to the grid is expected in August 2021.

The work is being conducted by engineering firm Stucky Ltd. of Renens, Switzerland, under the direction of Ivanhoe Mines and Zijin Mining, in conjunction with the DRC’s state-owned power company, SNEL.

Kamoa-Kakula aiming to become the first net-zero carbon emitter among top-tier copper mines by electrifying its mining fleet with state-of-the-art equipment powered by electric batteries or hydrogen fuel cells

On May 5, 2021, Ivanhoe Mines announced its pledge to achieve net-zero operational greenhouse gas emissions (Scope 1 and 2) at the industry-leading Kamoa-Kakula Copper Mine.

In support of the Paris Agreement on climate change, and in the spirit of the commitments at the April 2021 Leaders Summit on Climate by the Chinese and American governments to sharply cut emissions, Ivanhoe Mines has committed to working with its joint-venture partners and leading underground mining equipment manufacturers to ensure that Kamoa-Kakula becomes the first net-zero operational carbon emitter among the world’s top-tier copper producers.

Since the Kamoa-Kakula mine and concentrator plant already are powered by clean, renewable hydro-generated electricity, the focus of the company’s net-zero commitment will be on electrifying the project’s mining fleet with new, state-of-the-art equipment powered by electric batteries or hydrogen fuel cells.

Kamoa-Kakula is working closely with its mining equipment suppliers to decrease the use of fossil fuels in its mining fleet, and evaluate the viability, safety and performance of new electric, hydrogen and hybrid technologies. The mine plans to introduce them into its mining fleet as soon as they become commercially available.

Platreef Project

The Platreef Project is owned by Ivanplats, which is 64%-owned by Ivanhoe Mines. A 26% interest is held by Ivanplats’ historically-disadvantaged, broad-based, black economic empowerment (B-BBEE) partners, which include 20 local host communities with approximately 150,000 people, project employees and local entrepreneurs. Ivanplats reached Level 4 contributor status in its most recent verification assessment on the B-BBEE scorecard. A Japanese consortium of ITOCHU Corporation, Japan Oil, Gas and Metals National Corporation, and Japan Gas Corporation, owns a 10% interest in Ivanplats, which it acquired in two tranches for a total investment of $290 million.

The Platreef Project hosts an underground deposit of thick, platinum-group metals, nickel, copper and gold mineralization on the Northern Limb of the Bushveld Igneous Complex in Limpopo Province – approximately 280 kilometres northeast of Johannesburg and eight kilometres from the town of Mokopane.

On the Northern Limb, platinum-group metals mineralization is primarily hosted within the Platreef, a mineralized sequence that is traced more than 30 kilometres along strike. Ivanhoe’s Platreef Project, within the Platreef’s southern sector, is comprised of two contiguous properties: Turfspruit and Macalacaskop. Turfspruit, the northernmost property, is contiguous with, and along strike from, Anglo Platinum’s Mogalakwena group of mining operations and properties.

Since 2007, Ivanhoe has focused its exploration and development activities on defining and advancing the down-dip extension of its original discovery at Platreef, now known as the Flatreef Deposit, which is amenable to highly-mechanized, underground mining methods. The Flatreef area lies entirely on the Turfspruit and Macalacaskop properties that form part of the company’s mining right.

Project-level financing arrangements of up to $420 million to advance Platreef’s development

In February 2021, Ivanplats signed a non-binding term sheet with Orion Mine Finance, a leading international provider of production-linked stream financing to base and precious metals mining companies, for a $300 million gold, palladium and platinum streaming facility. The stream financing remains subject to completion of legal due diligence and structuring, as well as negotiation and execution of definitive documentation. The streaming facility is planned to be drawn down in two separate tranches, as needed, in parallel with the engineering studies to upgrade the Platreef 2020 PEA to a feasibility study and the changeover of Platreef’s Shaft 1 to a production shaft.

Ivanplats also appointed two prominent, international commercial banks – Societe Generale and Nedbank – as mandated lead arrangers for a senior project debt facility of up to $120 million. The senior project debt facility is scheduled to be utilized only after the streaming facility is fully drawn. Definitive terms and conditions of the debt facility are subject to the completion of the feasibility study for Platreef’s phased development plan, completion of due diligence and structuring, as well as negotiation and execution of definitive documentation. Terms and conditions of the debt facility will be made available when finalized.

Kipushi Project

The Kipushi copper-zinc-germanium-silver-lead mine in the DRC is adjacent to the town of Kipushi and approximately 30 kilometres southwest of Lubumbashi. It is located on the Central African Copperbelt, approximately 250 kilometres southeast of the Kamoa-Kakula Project and less than one kilometre from the Zambian border. Ivanhoe acquired its 68% interest in the Kipushi Project in November 2011; the balance of 32% is held by the state-owned mining company, Gécamines.

Western Foreland Exploration Project

Ivanhoe’s DRC exploration group is targeting Kamoa-Kakula-style copper mineralization through a regional exploration and drilling program on its Western Foreland exploration licences, located to the north, south and west of the Kamoa-Kakula Project. Ivanhoe’s Western Foreland Exploration Project consists of 17 licences that cover a combined area of approximately 2,550 square kilometres.

Exploration models that successfully led to the discoveries of Kakula, Kakula West, and the Kamoa North Bonanza Zone on the Kamoa-Kakula joint-venture mining licence are being applied to the extensive Western Foreland land package by the same team of exploration geologists responsible for previous discoveries.

Exploration activities at the Western Foreland area continued during Q2 2021, with drilling in the western and eastern extensions of the main Makoko area.

In Q2 2021, 32 diamond holes were completed at the Makoko area, on the west and the east of the main Makoko areas, following a fence of 1,000-metre spacing for a total of 7,310 metres. These results are pending assay. A 200-metre by 200-metre soil-sampling grid on this zone is planned for Q3 2021 for a follow-up on the previous soil geochemistry work.

Diamond drilling started at the Kiala discovery zone in late April. Nine holes have been drilled in the area to date for a total of 2,947 metres, investigating the extension to the north of the high-grade copper structure, as well as exploring the western extent of the zone. Assay results are pending.

The construction of a 16-kilometre road to provide critical access to the new exploration target areas on the newly-acquired western permits has been completed, as well as a bridge over the Lubudi River. Construction of a 60-kilometre access spine road across the western permits also has started, with 20 kilometres having been cleared to date, of which six kilometres have been covered with laterite. The plan is to complete the final bridge construction toward the end of the year once the spine road is complete.

Geophysical airborne surveys such as magnetics, gravity and electromagnetics are scheduled to start in early Q3 2021 in the Western Foreland and the Kamoa North areas. This new geophysical data will enhance the target delineation program for drill testing and soil sampling.

The recent Makoko West drilling is extremely significant for the exploration potential of the new exploration permits as it demonstrates that the target stratigraphy extends westward and that the copper mineralizing system on the western edge of the basin is laterally extensive. Future drilling in the Makoko West area will target specific structural locations that are conducive to developing higher copper grades.