Ivanhoe Mines (TSX: IVN; US-OTC: IVPAF) expects to begin producing copper at its Kakula project in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) in less than a year, as total underground development to date has surpassed the 20 km mark – about 6 km further than scheduled.
Kakula, the first mine planned at the Kamoa-Kakula concession, is initially forecast to generate 3.8 million tonnes of mineralized material per year at an average feed grade “well in excess of 6% copper” over the first five years of operation.
The Vancouver-based miner aims to issue an independent definitive feasibility study for the development of the 6-million-tonne-per-year Kakula mine later this month.
It also expects to issue a prefeasibility study that evaluates the 1.6-million tonne-per-year operation at the Kansoko mine, in order to “take full advantage of an expanded plant capacity of 7.6-million tonnes a year at Kakula.”
Ivanhoe’s co-chairperson Robert Friedland, who made his fortune from the Voisey’s Bay nickel project in Canada in the 1990s, has been working on Kamoa-Kakula for ten years.
The mining executive believes the project, being developed in partnership with China’s Zijin Mining Group, will become the world’s second-largest copper mine.
Ivanhoe said it will soon announce the appointment of an environmental consultant to audit Kamoa-Kakula’s greenhouse-gas metrics.
The firm’s report would provide environmental, social and governance investors with independent and transparent verification of the project’s contribution towards Ivanhoe’s goal of producing the world’s greenest copper, the miner said.
It also noted it was in “detailed discussions with a number of parties” about marketing and smelting its copper concentrates.
Last month, the company struck a strategic partnership with China Nonferrous Metal Mining (CNMC) to explore opportunities, including exploration and smelting, in Africa.
In January, CNMC opened Congo’s first large-scale copper smelter, the Lualaba Copper Smelter, 45 km from the Kamoa-Kakula copper joint venture in the country’s southern Copperbelt.
Kamoa-Kakula is a strategic partnership between Ivanhoe Mines (39.6%), Zijin Mining Group (39.6%), Crystal River Global Limited (0.8%) and the DRC government (20%).
The company is exploring for new copper discoveries on its wholly-owned Western Foreland exploration licences, adjacent to the Kamoa-Kakula mining licence.
Additionally, Ivanhoe is advancing the Platreef palladium-platinum-nickel-copper-gold-rhodium discovery in South Africa and upgrading its historic Kipushi zinc-copper-silver-lead-germanium mine, also in the DRC.