Initial mining has started at the Lupoto resource of the Kalumines coppercobalt project in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

Kalumines is owned 60% by Teal Exploration & Mining Incorporated – a growth-oriented mineral development and exploration company listed on the Toronto and Johannesburg Stock Exchanges – and 40% by the DRC government operation, La Générale des Carrières et des Mines (Gecamines).

Teal’s existing mining licence at Kalumines is located 25 km northwest of Lubumbashi and covers a surface area of some 77 km2. The licence hosts four, near-surface exposures of copper mineralisation – Lupoto, Kasonta, Karavia and Niamumenda.

The company has focused to date on the Lupoto area where drilling commenced in early 2007 and phase 1 open-pit mining is also underway. Lupoto has a 6.7 million tonne historical inferred resource grading 3.13% copper.

Teal is conducting a 5 200m exploration drilling program at Lupoto to verify and update this historical resource. It has drilled nearly 4 700 metres to date, comprising 31 reverse circulation and 23 diamond core boreholes.

Turning to mining, the company is targeting a portion of this mineral resource that has already been drilled, and which amounts to 560 000 tonnes, for immediate small-scale mining. The company is anticipating an operation that mines at a rate of 70 000 m3 per month, and expects to produce over 20 000 tpa of concentrate, grading around 25%, and therefore containing at least 5 000 tonnes of copper. The concentrate will be produced through selective mining and, initially, upgrading by hand-sorting.

The mining contractor at Lupoto has completed pre-stripping the overburden, and is now building up to planned full production. The training of contract employees conducting the hand-sorting of material to produce the concentrate has advanced. Current mined copper grades are in line with expectations.

Teal intends selling the concentrate to existing smelter operators in the DRC, and to feed its own electric arc furnace, which is currently being commissioned. This furnace, which can also treat cobalt material, has a capacity to produce approximately 5 000 tpa of ‘black copper’ ingots with a grading of 85% to 95% copper.

A feasibility study on a larger open pit mining operation at Lupoto is underway, and is scheduled for completion after the verification, in-fill resource drilling, and metallurgical test-work have been completed.

Kalumines is one of four specific projects targeted by Teal. The other three are the Konkola North and Mwambashi copper projects in Zambia and the Otjikoto gold project in Namibia.