Kamoa-Kakula
Kakula is expected to begin production in early 2021

The eagerly anticipated PFS for the development of the world-class Kakula copper mine in the DRC was released in February 2019.

This PFS charts the development plan for what will become the world’s second largest copper mine at peak annual production of more than 700 000 tonnes of copper, once the entire Kamoa-Kakula project is in production, CHANTELLE KOTZE writes.

Kakula’s latest mineral resource estimate covers a mineralised strike length of 13.3 km and incorporates the Kakula West discovery area saddled between the Kakula and the Kamoa orebodies.

This article first appeared in Mining Review Africa Issue 4, 2019
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The indicated mineral resource (at a cut-off grade of 1%) currently totals 628 Mt at a grade of 2.72% copper, while the estimated inferred mineral resource totals 114 Mt, also at a cut-off grade of 1%.

Indicated mineral resources for the combined Kamoa-Kakula project now total 1 387 Mt grading at 2.64% copper, containing 80.6 billion pounds of copper at a 1% copper cut-off grade and a vertical thickness of 6.9 m.

Kamoa-Kakula also has an inferred mineral resource of 316 Mt grading at 1.76% copper and containing 12.2 billion pounds of copper, also at a 1% copper cut-off grade and a vertical thickness of 4.5 m.

With a track record of successfully delivering projects in the DRC, diversified global engineering, project delivery and operations management group DRA Global has been appointed by Kamoa Copper SA – a joint venture between Ivanhoe Mines, Zijin Mining and the government of the DRC – to deliver the basic engineering package associated with bringing the world-class Kakula copper mine into production.

According to DRA’s senior vice president projects in Africa, JC Heslinga, the work being carried out by DRA will be instrumental in bringing Kakula – one of the world’s largest, undeveloped copper discoveries – into production in early 2021.

The recently released PFS evaluates the development of a stage 1, 6 Mtpa underground mine and surface processing complex at the Kakula deposit at an estimated development capital of US$1.1 billion.

Meanwhile, an updated re-scoped and expanded preliminary economic assessment (PEA) shows the potential to develop the Kamoa-Kakula project to a larger scale and with a larger production capacity.

The PEA envisions a staged mine expansion at a total production rate of 18 Mtpa, supplied initially by a 6 Mtpa mine at Kakula, followed by two 6 Mtpa mines at Kansoko and Kakula West, and a world-scale direct-to-blister smelter.

Kakula development update

Since the Kakula mine will come on stream first, the priority is currently on fast-tracking underground development, as well as engineering and procurement of the 6 Mtpa concentrator plant and critical mine infrastructure.

The Kakula mill would be constructed in two smaller phases of 3 Mtpa each as the mining operations ramp-up to full production of 6 Mtpa.

Work at Kakula is progressing well – the initial two declines intersected the mineralised reef on the northern edge of the Kakula deposit at approximately 1 400 m in late January 2019 and underground mine development now is progressing toward the initial, high-grade mining area.

Ongoing underground development activities, including access drives and ventilation raises is also underway.

The boxcut for a ventilation decline, Ventilation Decline 2, which started in October 2018 on the southern side of the Kakula orebody has been completed and the breakaway has started for the portal development.

Work on Ventilation Shaft 1, which will be established via raise boring, is also under way. The pilot hole is currently being drilled and will be followed by the reaming of the shaft.

DRA delivers

DRA’s project delivery relationship with Ivanhoe Mines started on the high-grade platinum-group metals, nickel and copper Platreef project in South Africa in 2013.

It was on this project that DRA demonstrated its experienced capability in project delivery, which proved to be a key differentiator for the organisation on Kakula. 

DRA was then contracted to complete the PFS for Kamoa Copper SA in 2017. Its scope of work within the PFS entailed underground mining infrastructure, surface infrastructure, metallurgical processing plant and bulk mine infrastructure (including power and road infrastructure).

In October 2018, DRA was further awarded the contract to deliver a complete, basic engineering package for the Kakula portion of the greater Kamoa-Kakula copper project.

“We are extremely pleased to have been awarded the engineering and design associated with all underground mining infrastructure, the 6 Mtpa dual-stream base metals concentrator plant and all supporting surface infrastructure,” says Heslinga.

“This is a world-class copper project and we are very proud to have had the opportunity of completing the earlier pre-feasibility study. This award is a testament to the good work already carried out by the DRA team, and to the sound relationship between our companies. Work to realise the basic engineering package began in October 2018 and will be concluded by mid-2019,” he adds.

In addition to the basic engineering, DRA has started the detailed engineering and procurement phase of the 2019 critical-path execution works, which is expected to culminate in the first half of 2021 – when the processing plant produces the first concentrate.

The critical-path works, DRA’s main focus at present, will entail the completion of the civil earthworks design to enable the earthworks construction to commence, the procurement of long-lead mechanical and electrical equipment as well as the placement of the five-year mining contract.

Heslinga has credited winning the basic engineering contract, as well as the follow-on detailed engineering phase, to the hard work of the combined team, commitment, flexible solutions, and the trust of the client in DRA to deliver the project.

“The team working on this project has gone above and beyond to meet deadlines and exceed client expectations ultimately to ensure that this flagship project starts producing as soon as possible,” concludes Heslinga.

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