Ivanhoe Mines
Team members from DRC-based Kamoa Kakula Construction Company, at the head end of the high-capacity decline conveyor system that will transport copper ore from the Kakula mine’s underground workings to the surface processing plant

Underground development at Ivanhoe Mines’ Kakula copper mine in the Democratic Republic of Congo continues to advance ahead of schedule with more than 15.4 km now complete, which is 4.7 km ahead of plan.

In May, the mining team set its fifth consecutive monthly development record of 1 868 m of underground advancement – 535 m ahead of plan for the month.

A major development at the Kakula mine currently is primarily in ore with an average grade of approximately 8% copper. This ore is being placed on a dedicated, high-grade surface stockpile that now totals approximately 51 000 t grading an estimated 5.86% copper. An adjacent medium-grade stockpile contains approximately 306 000 t grading an estimated 3.06% copper. The high-grade stockpile is projected to significantly expand in the coming months as the majority of Kakula’s underground development will be in mining zones grading +5% copper.

READ MORE: Operations at Kamoa-Kakula copper mine continue

The fabrication of structural steel and key equipment for Kakula’s initial 3.8 Mtpa processing plant is progressing rapidly at manufacturing facilities in China, South Africa and Europe. Fabrication of the plant’s largest components – the ball mills – is nearing completion at CITIC Heavy Industries’ factory in Luoyang, China, and shipping of major components is underway.

Approximately 100 truck-loads of equipment for the processing plant are en route to the Kakula mine from the port of Durban, South Africa. The two ball mills – a primary and secondary mill each measuring 9.75 m long and 6.1 m in diameter that will be installed in series to achieve a grind of 80% passing 53 micrometres – are being transported to Kamoa-Kakula in three separate shipments. One shipment is on the road between Durban and Kamoa-Kakula; one shipment is on a cargo ship and expected to arrive at Durban on 18 June; and the third shipment is scheduled to depart Shanghai, China also on 18 June.

Underground development tracking very well

Development of the Kakula mine, the first deposit to be placed into production on the 400 km2 Kamoa-Kakula mining licence, is well ahead of schedule. Mine access drives 1 and 2 (interconnected, parallel tunnels that will provide access to ore zones) continue to progress well towards the southern portion of the orebody.

Development also is well advanced on the eastern perimeter drives and the room-and-pillar mining area. Development from the southern portal has reached south access drives 1 and 2, with mining crews working to establish the connection of these drives with mine access drives 1 and 2 from the north side of the orebody. Approximately 1 000 m of development is required before the northern and southern access drives are joined, which is scheduled to occur in September 2020.

A second crew comprised of young Congolese miners was added to the Kakula mining team in March bringing the total number of underground mining crews to nine. The mine will continue to add additional crews over the next year to further accelerate development.

Underground mining also is occurring at the Kansoko mine, located at the Kamoa deposit approximately 10 km north of the Kakula mine. Kansoko is development ready and currently is being used to train new crews of young Congolese miners.

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Kakula’s main belt and sacrificial belts have been installed for the conveyor system that will transport ore from underground to surface. Initial commissioning for the conveyor system is scheduled to occur in the next week, with final commissioning for the full system (including the fire suppression system and all safety components) scheduled for mid-July.

The reaming of Ventilation Shaft 3 has been completed. A high-capacity, surface fan will be moved from its current location at Ventilation Shaft 1 to Ventilation Shaft 3. Ventilation Shaft 1 will then become downcast (drawing fresh air into the mine) and Ventilation Shaft 3 will be upcast. Reaming of Ventilation Shaft 4 is expected to commence this month and should be completed by the end of July.

In parallel with the construction of Kamoa-Kakula’s phase 1 Kakula mine, work is progressing on the independent Kakula definitive feasibility study (DFS) and an updated integrated development plan for the entire Kamoa-Kakula mining complex, which is expected to be issued in mid-2020. The Kakula DFS will provide an increased level of accuracy for the project economics for the initial phase of mine development at Kakula. The integrated development plan will include details on the planned expansion phases for the greater Kamoa-Kakula mining complex, incorporating updates for mineral resources, production rates and economic analysis.

Processing plant and other surface infrastructure remains on track

Manufacturing and delivery to site of all long lead items for Kakula’s 3.8 Mtpa concentrator plant facility is well advanced with some items already having been delivered. Plant earthworks is complete, and plant civil works are advancing rapidly. SMPP (structural, mechanical, piping and platework) fabrication is progressing well with some steel already on route to site, and mobilisation of the erection crews have started. The contract for the EC&I (Electrical, Control and Instrumentation) has been awarded.

The capital cost related to the construction of the mining infrastructure (underground and surface), processing plant and surface infrastructure has been estimated to a basic engineering level of accuracy and is being used as the control budget estimate for the project.

The current estimate of the project’s initial capital costs is approximately US$1.3 billion as of 1 January 2019, which assumes commissioning of the first processing plant module in Q3, 2021.

COVID 19 update

More than 3 500 employees and contractors are currently working on site, of which approximately 90% are Congolese nationals. To date, there have been no recorded COVID-19 cases in DRC’s Lualaba Province where Kamoa-Kakula is located. As a result, on 1 June, Kamoa-Kakula moved from Level 4 to Level 3 of its COVID-19 response plan, allowing the project’s Congolese employees to return to commuting from Kolwezi and neighbouring communities.