Tenke fires up again

Thirty years after the consortium, Soc Miniere de Tenke Fungurume (SMTF), led by Charter Consolidated, walked away from Tenke Fungurume in the DRC, Phelps Dodge board of directors has given conditional approval to develop the initial mining project at the Tenke Fungurume copper/cobalt concession in Katanga Province. SMTF was awarded the concessions in 1970 and performed exploration, feasibility studies and the commencement of construction. The company abandoned the project in 1976 owing to economic and political issues and was finally liquidated in 1984. Gecamines, the state-owned mining company, acquired Tenke Fungurume following SMTF’s liquidation.

The initial Tenke Fungurume project will include development of a mine and associated copper and cobalt processing facilities. It will require a capital investment of approximately $650 million. Phelps Dodge is responsible for providing 70% of the funding. Tenke Mining is responsible for providing the other 30%. A Phelps Dodge subsidiary will be the operator of the project. Ownership in the project is: Phelps Dodge, 57.75%; Tenke Mining, 24.75%; and Gecamines 17.5%.

Tenke Fungurume is considered to be one of the largest, highest-grade, undeveloped copper/cobalt concessions in the world today. An ongoing, extensive exploration programme is continuing to develop reserves to support future expansions (International Mining, December 2006, pp28-33). The initial project will focus on 103 Mt of oxide ore reserves. It is expected to be in full production in late 2008 or early 2009. During the first 10 years of mining, total annual output is projected to be some 113,400 t of copper and 8,160 t of cobalt. The life of the initial project is anticipated to be approximately 40 years.