Ivanhoe Mines completes Kamoa-Kakula’s Phase 3 Concentrator ahead of schedule and on budget

Ivanhoe Mines Executive Co-Chair Robert Friedland and President Marna Cloete announced on May 26, 2024 that first ore was fed into the Phase 3 concentrator at the Kamoa-Kakula Copper Complex in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). First ore marks the completion of construction of the Phase 3 concentrator, which has been achieved months ahead of schedule and also on budget. First concentrate is expected in early June, while ramp-up to commercial production is targeted for early in the third quarter.

Ivanhoe Mines’ Founder and Executive Co-Chairman Robert Friedland commented: “The Kamoa-Kakula operations team continues its industry-leading execution with the early and on-budget delivery of the Phase 3 concentrator and underground mining operations … a rare feat in an industry plagued by cost overruns and delays when it comes to complex, world-scale projects. Meanwhile, we have experienced much-improved power stability over the second quarter following our team’s proactive response to grid instability experienced in the southern DRC grid. As a result, we’ve seen materially higher head grades and improved production over the past two months. We expect a stronger second quarter from Kamoa-Kakula’s operations, reinforcing our confidence that production will align with annual guidance.”

He adds: “Given the outperformance of Kamoa-Kakula’s operations to date, including higher than expected throughput and recoveries at the Phase 1 and Phase 2 concentrators, we are now studying options to boost copper production towards our next goal of 800,000 t per annum … a production rate that would propel the Kamoa-Kakula Copper Complex towards being one of the two largest copper producers on our planet. In addition to the de-bottlenecking of the Phase 3 concentrator and increasing recoveries to 95% via our ‘Project 95’ initiative, we are now also studying options to accelerate the Phase 4 expansion at Kamoa-Kakula to target a throughput rate of at least 20 million tonnes annually. Given the current copper market, and the expansive copper resources and reserves in proximity of the milling complex, we believe this expanded throughput rate would unlock substantial value for our stakeholders and shareholders in the near and long term.”

“It is only early days in terms of the broader copper growth story at Ivanhoe Mines, with our aggressive 70,000-metre drill program at our adjoining, majority-owned Western Foreland licenses …which is now ramping up into the dry season with 10 drill rigs active. Given that our current Western Foreland resources already total nearly 5 Mt contained copper, we also intend to assiduously advance the Makoko, Kiala and Kitoko discoveries towards early production to underpin the further expansion of our copper business.”

The Phase 3 concentrator will process ore from the adjacent Kamoa 1 and 2 underground mines, as well as the connecting Kansoko underground mine. The design capacity of the Phase 3 concentrator is 30% larger than the original design capacities of the Phase 1 and 2 concentrators, which are located approximately 10 kilometres to the south. The process design of all three concentrators is comparable, therefore the bulk of the equipment is the same or similar, resulting in a commonality of spare parts, while also leveraging operational and maintenance experience.

The Phase 3 concentrator increases the total design processing capacity of the Kamoa-Kakula Copper Complex to 14.2 million tonnes per annum. Phase 3 is expected to increase annualised copper production to more than 600,000 t, positioning Kamoa-Kakula as the world’s fourth-largest copper mining complex, and the largest copper mine on the African continent.

As of April 30, 2024, a total of 2.25 Mt of ore at a grade of 3.1% copper is stored in surface run-of-mine (ROM) stockpiles adjacent to the Phase 3 concentrator. The stockpiled ore from the Kamoa 1 and Kansoko mines, containing approximately 70,000 t of copper, with the copper price trading at well over $10,000 per tonne, is being used to de-risk the ongoing wet commissioning and ramp-up of the new 5 Mt/y concentrator.

Dry commissioning commenced in early April, with first ore from the ROM stockpiles being fed through the front-end (crushing and screening plant) of the Phase 3 concentrator. A crushed ore stockpile has been created on the high-pressure grinding rolls (HPGR) feed stockpile area, at the end of the crushing and screening circuit. Wet commissioning commenced with first feed into the ball mills and the flotation plant on May 26. First concentrate is expected to be produced in early June, with commercial production targeted for early in the third quarter.

Concentrate produced by the Phase 3 concentrator will be partially sold (via toll-smelting at the Lualaba Copper Smelter) to generate cash flow, as well as partially stockpiled in preparation for the commissioning of the on-site, direct-to-blister smelter. Concentrate produced by the Phase 3 concentrator has a higher sulphuric content than the Phase 1 and 2, which requires less external energy input into the smelter during start-up. Approximately, 70,000 t of Phase 3 concentrate is planned to be stockpiled on-site ahead of the start-up of the smelter.

Kamoa-Kakula’s Phase 3 concentrator expansion was completed months ahead of schedule and will boost production to over 600,000 t of copper per annum once fully ramped up early in Q3 2024.

Kamoa-Kakula’s Phase 3 concentrator has a nameplate throughput of 5 Mt/y. Once ramped-up, study work will commence on de-bottlenecking the milling circuit. The de-bottlenecking at the Phase 1 and Phase 2 concentrators, completed in February 2023, increased throughput by over 20% above the original design capacity.

Basic engineering of the previously announced “Project 95” is expected to be completed in the coming weeks. Project 95 is an initiative targeting an increased overall metallurgical copper recovery rate of Kamoa-Kakula’s Phase 1 and 2 concentrators of approximately 95%, up from the current rate of approximately 87%.

Once the Phase 3 concentrator has achieved commercial production, Kamoa-Kakula’s engineering team will gather operating data with the view to initiating a de-bottlenecking program to further increase the Phase 3 concentrator processing capacity above 5 Mt/y. The Phase 1 and 2 concentrators completed a de-bottlenecking program in February 2023, which increased processing capacity by approximately 20% above the original design throughput.

Following the completion of Phase 3, and given current market conditions, Kamoa-Kakula’s engineering team is investigating the acceleration of the project’s planned Phase 4 expansion. The Phase 4 concentrator will be positioned adjacent to the Phase 3 concentrator, with a minimum processing capacity of 5 Mt/y, and will share common infrastructure with Phase 3, including the front end (crushing and screening plant), which will reduce capital costs.

An updated life-of-mine integrated development plan for the Kamoa-Kakula Copper Complex, including the Phase 3 expansion, smelter and Project 95, as well as further optimization initiatives and the planned Phase 4 expansion is expected to be completed by the end of 2024.