Fourth M:O Larox filter press delivered to Kamoa Copper as part of debottlenecking program

The Kamoa-Kakula Mining Complex in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) produced 333,497 t of copper in concentrate in 2022, achieving the upper-end of the original 2022 production guidance range of 290,000 to 340,000 t. Kamoa-Kakula’s 2022 production achievement represents a year-over-year increase of 215%.

The 2023 annual production guidance for Kamoa-Kakula is estimated at between 390,000 to 430,000 t of copper in concentrate, following the anticipated completion of the debottlenecking program early in the second quarter of 2023.

Ivanhoe Mines Executive Co-Chair Robert FriedlandFriedland commented: “Kamoa-Kakula has firmly established a track record of excellence during the development of Phase 1 and Phase 2 operations, which has led to an industry-leading growth profile in terms of copper production that will continue as we bring Phase 3 online. Kamoa-Kakula also stands out among its peers as one of the few mining operations worldwide to strongly deliver on its original 2022 production guidance, which is a further testament to the team of engineers and contractors who commissioned the Phase 2 concentrator several months ahead of schedule.”

“With the Phase 3 expansion well on track, including the integration of Africa’s largest single-line blister-copper flash smelter, Kamoa-Kakula is poised to become one of the world’s leading producers of vital copper metal for global markets…a producer that will have one of the lowest, if not the lowest, carbon footprints in the industry. Ivanhoe Mines looks forward to a long, prosperous partnership with the Democratic Republic of Congo government, the Congolese people, our joint-venture partners, and the international investors that have been integral in making these exceptional achievements possible.”

Kamoa-Kakula’s 2022 production guidance was raised from an initial range of 290,000 to 340,000 t, following the successful ramp-up of Kamoa Copper’s Phase 2 concentrator plant, which was commissioned several months ahead of schedule and declared commercial production on April 7, 2022.

During the fourth quarter, Kamoa-Kakula produced 92,761 t of copper. Kamoa-Kakula also reported 93,288 t of copper floated, which includes the contained copper still in the circuit that was floated, but has not yet been filtered to produce a final concentrate. As of December 31, 2022, there was a balance of approximately 5,670 t of copper in the circuit, which will be filtered into a final concentrate once the debottlenecking program is complete. For the full year of 2022, in line with the Kamoa-Kakula’s upper end of guidance, 338,087 t of contained copper were floated.

The difference between floated and filtered copper arises from the current bottleneck in concentrate filter capacity, as the Phase 1 and 2 milling and flotation circuits continue to operate above design capacity. Floated copper is temporarily stored as a slurry in a fully-lined pond, which will be reclaimed into the concentrate thickener and filter press once the fourth Larox filter press is installed as part of the debottlenecking program.

Kamoa Copper’s previously announced debottlenecking program is over 90% complete and is progressing ahead of schedule. All the major equipment for the program, including the fourth Larox filter press from Metso Outotec of Espoo, Finland, has been delivered to the site. The final step of installation will take place over the next few months, with cold commissioning targeted to take place in April 2023. As part of the debottlenecking program, a new Metso Outotec scavenger-cleaner flotation cell on the Phase 1 concentrator is also undergoing final installation.

The debottlenecking program will increase the combined processing capacity of the Phase 1 and Phase 2 concentrator plants to approximately 9.2 Mt per annum and increase the rate of copper production to approximately 450,000 t per annum. During 2022, the Kamoa-Kakula Mining Complex milled approximately 7.1 Mt of ore at an average feed grade of 5.5% copper and produced 333,497 t of copper in concentrate. A total of 2 million ore tonnes were milled during the fourth quarter at an average feed grade of 5.4% copper.

Tonnes of ore milled in the fourth quarter were slightly lower by approximately 3.5%, on a quarter-on-quarter basis due to intermittent electrical power supply disruptions on the DRC grid. Kamoa Copper is working with the DRC state-owned power utility, SNEL, to minimise any future disruptions to operations.

On December 27, 2022, a total of 27,424 dry tonnes of ore were milled through the Phase 1 and 2 concentrators ̶ a daily record for both facilities. This is equivalent to an milling rate of 9.1 Mt per annum (after accounting for availability).

A total of 120,000 t were drawn from the run-of-mine stockpiles in the fourth quarter. While the ongoing expansion of underground infrastructure at the Kakula Mine takes place, ore continues to be drawn periodically from the stockpile to maximise copper production, as the concentrators are currently operating over design capacity.

Kamoa-Kakula’s high- and medium-grade ore surface stockpiles totaled approximately 4.08 Mt at an estimated, blended average grade of 4.05% copper. Contained copper in the stockpiles at the end of December totaled more than 165,000 t (the current copper price is approximately $8,600 per tonne).

Copper flotation recoveries during 2022 from the Phase 1 and 2 concentrators averaged 86%. The Kamoa Copper process engineering team, together with several internationally-recognised external metallurgy specialists, continue to investigate the feasibility of new technologies to economically recover additional copper from the tailings stream of the Phase 1 and 2 concentrators, to potentially increase overall recoveries above Kamoa-Kakula’s 86% design target.

An updated 2023 Integrated Development Plan (Kamoa-Kakula 2023 IDP) for the life-of-mine of the Kamoa Kakula Mining Complex, including both the Phase 3 and Phase 4 expansions, as well as the smelter, is expected to be released during the week of January 30, 2023.