KOLWEZI, DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO – Ivanhoe Mines has announced that Kamoa-Kakula’s Phase 1, 3.8 million-tonne-per-annum (Mtpa) concentrator plant 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 very close to 70% for a continuous, seven-day period.
To date, approximately 500,000 tonnes of ore have been milled, including approximately 263,000 tonnes grading 5.7% copper in July. Copper production has steadily increased since hot commissioning began at the end of May.
Copper production exceeded 500 tonnes per day toward the end of 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 have increased from an average of approximately 70% in June to approximately 81% in July.
During the last 10 days of July, the concentrator averaged copper recoveries close to 82%, with operations progressively increasing toward the Phase 1 steady-state design copper recoveries of approximately 86%.
To date, approximately 32,700 tonnes of copper concentrate have been loaded at the mine site for delivery to either the Lualaba Copper Smelter near Kolwezi, or to international markets.
A total of 414,000 tonnes grading 5.16% copper was mined in July 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.
The project’s pre-production surface stockpiles now contain approximately 3.54 million tonnes of high-grade and medium-grade ore at an estimated, blended average of 4.77% copper. Contained copper in the stockpiles at the end of July now totals more than 168,000 tonnes (the current copper price is approximately US$9,700 per tonne).
As the plant ramps up to full Phase 1 design capacity, and the mine toward Phase 2 production capacity, the surface stockpiles are expected to continue to build at a reduced rate.
In July, Kamoa-Kakula’s mining crews set a new record for metres of underground advancement, with 3,876 metres achieved, shattering the previous record of 3,625 metres in April. July’s advancement brings the total underground development to approximately 52.8 kilometres – more than 18.1 kilometres ahead of schedule.
Mark Farren, Kamoa Copper’s CEO, commented: “July marks another month of solid performance by our mining and concentrator teams, as we continue to add to the surface stockpiles even as Phase 1 copper production ramps up. We expect to maintain these ore production levels over the upcoming quarters in preparation for the commissioning of the Phase 2 concentrator plant, and the potential strategic stockpiling for the Phase 3 expansion.
“Commissioning of the Phase 1 concentrator is progressing well. We now have milled approximately 500,000 tonnes of ore and gradually have lifted recoveries from an average of approximately 70% in June to approximately 81% in July, with the last 10 days of July averaging close to 82%. We also have seen steady improvement in the production of copper over the last month, with daily production exceeding 500 tonnes several times during July. Both recoveries and copper production are approaching Phase 1 steady-state design parameters.”
“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.”
Ivanhoe’s guidance for contained copper in concentrate expected to be produced by Kamoa-Kakula in 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.
From August 2021 onwards, Kamoa Copper will change the monthly reporting cut-off for concentrator operations from the final day of the month to the 20th day of the month, in order to allow more time for analysis and reconciliations, which will result in truncated monthly production statistics in next month’s news release.
Kakula is projected to be the world’s highest-grade major copper mine, with an initial mining rate of 3.8 Mtpa at an estimated, average feed grade of more than 6.0% copper over the first five years of operations and 5.9% copper over the initial 10 years of operations. Phase 1 is expected to produce approximately 200,000 tonnes of copper per year, while the Phase 2 expansion is forecast to increase production to approximately 400,000 tonnes of copper annually.
The project is on track to complete the Phase 2 expansion in Q3 2022. Based on independent benchmarking, the project’s phased expansion scenario to 19 Mtpa would position Kamoa-Kakula as the world’s second-largest copper mining complex, with peak annual copper production of more than 800,000 tonnes.