Tag Archives: Ivanhoe Mines

SES’ O3b constellation to keep up connectivity at Kamoa-Kakula

The Kamoa-Kakula copper project in the Democratic Republic of the Congo will continue to enjoy high-speed satellite-based connectivity services as part of a new agreement between Ivanhoe Mines and SES, SES says.

The enhanced partnership builds on an existing five-year relationship between SES and Ivanhoe Mines and comes at a time of significant investment in low-latency, high-capacity solutions in the region, the company added.

The O3b constellation is powering connectivity for mining operators, driving a digitalisation revolution for the sector that is helping to increase profitability while improving worker safety and accountability, according to SES. “This model enables operators to cost effectively scale connectivity as needed throughout the lifecycle of a mine, ensuring assets have the right amount of bandwidth at any given time to meet digitalisation requirements,” it said.

Caroline Kamaitha, Vice President, Sales Africa at SES, said: “We’re proud to continue delivering reliable high-speed connectivity to DRC’s mining industry through our O3b high-throughput and low-latency connectivity services, enabling mining companies to implement new services and applications that will improve workers’ safety, digitalise operations and maximise profitability through increased agility and automation.”

Anil Udayabhanu, Head of Technology at Kamoa Copper, said: “Our long-standing partnership with SES has already helped us to improve the profitability of our extraction, and supported our goal of improving the safety and welfare of all of our staff. In addition to that, O3b connectivity services will also help us leverage the latest applications, communicate in real time and maximise our productivity.”

Metso Outotec to supply direct blister furnace to Kamoa-Kakula operations

Kamoa Copper SA has selected Metso Outotec to supply a high-capacity direct blister furnace to the company’s copper mining complex expansion project in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

The value of this type of a delivery is typically between €30-40 million ($30-40 million).

Metso Outotec’s scope of delivery consists of key equipment and automation for the direct blister furnace designed for the production of blister copper in a single flash furnace without the need for separate converting stages. The 500,000 t/y copper throughput furnace will have the largest licensed flash smelting capacity in the world, according to Metso Outotec.

The scope also includes intelligent safety and monitoring automation systems for the furnace.

Jyrki Makkonen, Vice President, Smelting at Metso Outotec, said: “Non-ferrous metals play a key role in the green transition, and a major increase in global copper production is required to support this transition. We are pleased to support Kamoa Copper in their ambitious expansion project, in which high capacity and reliable, sustainable processes play a vital role. Our collaboration has been excellent throughout the initial stages of the process, including the initial study work, basic engineering as well as pilot testing.”

Metso Outotec has delivered more than 60 flash furnaces around the world since the 1950s, with the technology being the most used in pyrometallurgical copper production. The Metso Outotec Flash Smelting Process is, the company says, the cleanest smelting method available and part of the company’s Planet Positive offering.

Last month in its quarterly report, Ivanhoe Mines, which has a 39.6% interest in Kamoa-Kakula, said a new 500,000 t/y direct-to-blister flash smelter was to be constructed as part of the Phase 3 expansion at the mine.

Upon commencement of Phase 3 production, the Kamoa-Kakula Mining Complex will have a processing capacity in excess of 14 Mt/y, with increased copper production capacity of approximately 600,000 t/y. This production rate will position the Kamoa-Kakula Mining Complex as the third-largest copper mining operation in the world, according to Ivanhoe.

Commissioning is expected in the December quarter of 2024.

Ivanhoe and Gécamines break ground on Kipushi processing plant

Ivanhoe Mines President, Marna Cloete, has announced that Kipushi Corporation SA (KICO), a joint venture between Ivanhoe and DRC state-owned mining company Gécamines, have broken ground on construction of the processing plant at the historic Kipushi zinc-copper-germanium-silver mine in the country.

In addition, Ivanhoe has signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with the provincial government of Haut-Katanga to study options for upgrading the DRC-Zambia border crossing in the town of Kipushi for commercial imports and exports.

The ground-breaking ceremony was attended by His Excellency Jean-Michel Sama Lukonde, Prime Minister of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Her Excellency Adèle Kayinda Mahina, Minister of State and Minister of Portfolio, Her Excellency Antoinette N’Samba Kalambayi, Minister of Mines, members of the provincial government of the Haut-Katanga Province and other national, provincial and local dignitaries, in addition to representatives from Ivanhoe, Gécamines and the town of Kipushi.

The delegation was presented with the development plan for returning the Kipushi mine to production by late 2024 – one hundred years since it was first opened and 30 years since it was placed on care and maintenance.

The ceremony follows the release of results of the Kipushi 2022 Feasibility Study, announced in February 2022, as well as the agreement signed between Ivanhoe Mines and Gécamines to bring the Kipushi mine back into production.

The study evaluates the development of an 800,000 t/y concentrator and underground mine, producing on average of 240,000 t/y of zinc contained in concentrate over a 14-year life of mine. The successful commencement of commercial production would establish Kipushi as the world’s highest-grade major zinc mine, with an average head grade of 36.4% Zn over the first five years of production, according to Ivanhoe.

Existing, rehabilitated surface and underground infrastructure allow for significantly lower capital costs than comparable development projects, Ivanhoe said. The estimated pre-production capital cost, including contingency, is $382 million. This infrastructure also allows for a relatively short construction timeline of two years, with the principal development activities being the construction of a conventional concentrator facility and supporting infrastructure, together with the restart of mining activities underground.

Ordering of long-lead equipment is underway and early construction activities have commenced. Financing and offtake discussions, including a pre-payment facility of $250 million, are well advanced with several interested parties, the company added.

Ivanhoe’s Cloete said: “Kipushi is exceptional, not only because of the renowned Big Zinc deposit, which is one of the world’s richest orebodies, but more importantly because of the people of Kipushi and the unique partnerships that make today’s ceremony possible.

“We now have our sights clearly set on the re-start of production in 2024. The re-birth of the historic Kipushi Mine will be a great achievement for Ivanhoe Mines, our partners and shareholders, and the Democratic Republic of Congo.”

The Kipushi Mine is strategically located less than 1 km from the DRC-Zambia border, which will be the gateway for Kipushi’s products to global export markets.

On August 24, 2022, Ivanhoe Mines and the Province of Haut-Katanga signed a MOU concerning the construction of a dedicated, commercial border post for the Kipushi Mine, together with the upgrading of the existing border post in the town of Kipushi, which currently only serves local traffic between DRC and Zambia.

This new commercial border crossing will provide a significant advantage to the Kipushi Mine as a direct means of importing materials and consumables, as well as clearing customs and exporting products from the mine, and will provide socio-economic benefits to the town and Province of Haut-Katanga, Ivanhoe said.

The Kipushi Mine has a long and storied history as a major producer of copper and zinc. Built and then operated by Union Minière for 42 years, Kipushi began mining a reported 18% copper deposit from a surface open pit in 1924. It was the world’s richest copper mine at the time, according to Ivanhoe. The Kipushi Mine then transitioned to become Africa’s richest underground copper, zinc and germanium mine. State-owned Gécamines gained control of Kipushi in 1967 and operated the mine until 1993, when it was placed on care and maintenance due to a combination of economic and political factors.

Over a span of 69 years, Kipushi produced a total of 6.6 Mt of zinc and 4 Mt of copper from 60 Mt of ore grading 11% Zn and approximately 7% Cu. It also produced 278 t of germanium and 12,673 t of lead between 1956 and 1978.

Most of Kipushi’s historical production was from the Fault Zone, a steeply-dipping orebody rich in copper and zinc that was initially mined as an open pit. The Fault Zone extends to a depth of at least 1,800 m below surface, along the intersection of a fault in carbonaceous dolomites.

Before Kipushi was idled in 1993, Gécamines discovered the Big Zinc deposit at a depth of approximately 1,250 m below surface and adjacent to the producing Fault Zone. The Big Zinc Deposit has not been mined and is the initial target for production as outlined in the 2022 feasibility study.

Since acquiring its interest in the Kipushi Mine in 2011, Ivanhoe’s drilling campaigns have upgraded and expanded the mine’s zinc-rich measured and indicated mineral resources by more than double to an estimated 11.78 Mt grading 35.34% Zn, 0.80% Cu, 23 g/t Ag and 64 g/t Ge, at a 7% zinc cutoff.

In addition, Ivanhoe’s drilling expanded Kipushi’s copper-rich measured and indicated resources to an additional 2.29 Mt at grades of 4.03% Cu, 2.85% Zn, 21 g/t Ag and 19 g/t Ge at a 1.5% copper cutoff.

Once in operation, the Kipushi Mine is expected to be powered by clean, renewable hydro-generated electricity and is set to be among one of the world’s lowest Scope 1 and 2 greenhouse gas emitters per tonne of zinc metal produced, according to Ivanhoe.

Zest WEG motors, VSDs help drive Kamoa-Kakula to reaching copper production goals

Zest WEG says it is supplying an extensive range of motors and variable speed drives (VSDs) for the second phase of the Kamoa-Kakula project, in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Phase one of the project produced its first copper concentrate on May 25, 2021, and is expected to produce 200,000 t/y of copper in concentrate, according to Ivanhoe Mines, which owns 39.6% of the project, along with Zijin Mining Group (also 39.6%), Crystal River Global Ltd (0.8%) and the Government of the Democratic Republic of Congo (20%).

Phase 2, now in the advanced stages of construction, will result in a doubling of production capacity. Future phased expansions could eventually see a mining rate set to process 19 Mt/y.

For the first phase of the project, Zest WEG was the key supplier for this electrical equipment.

According to Joe Martins, Mining Sector Specialist for Zest WEG, the mine’s scope of supply for the second phase is a repeat of the first. The first phase was supplied in 2020 with WEG medium voltage VSDs and WEG high voltage motors to drive the mine’s primary and secondary mills in the concentrator plant.

“We began to manufacture these long-lead time items in 2019, and delivered two medium voltage VSDs and two 3.3 kV motors for the mine’s 7,000 kW primary ball mill and its 7,000 kW secondary mill,” Martins said. “Our high voltage motors and medium voltage VSDs were also selected to drive the two 1,200 kW high pressure grinding rolls in the plant.”

WEG high voltage motors and automation solutions drive the underground ventilation fan applications, providing fresh air to the underground mine workings, he added.

All these large items are designed to specification, manufactured and tested in WEG’s Brazil facilities.

Due to COVID-19 travel restrictions, the factory acceptance tests were conducted virtually, with special processes being developed to allow thorough inspection and comment online. The testing of the equipment for phase two – also conducted in a virtual environment – was completed in the September quarter of 2021.

Kamoa-Kakula is expected to become one of the world’s lowest greenhouse gas emitters per unit of copper produced, and Zest WEG’s energy efficient motors and automation solutions will contribute to this, the company said.

The first phase order included over 700 WEG low voltage IE3 premium efficiency motors, supplied to various local and international original equipment manufacturers, and installed throughout the concentrator plant. These motors drive equipment such as the rock breakers, conveyor drives, flotation cells, thickeners, slurry pumps, winches and other mechanical OEM packages.

Where processes within the plant required variable speed control, WEG low voltage VSDs were selected to provide the speed and control necessary for this equipment. Martins explains that, by selecting WEG low voltage VSDs in combination with WEG low voltage motors, Kamoa-Kakula will benefit from a 36-month warranty period.

“An important part of the energy efficiency strategy was for the plant to standardise on our IE3 premium efficiency motors – rated according to the IEC 60034-30 international standard,” he said. “With a class-leading energy efficiency rating, this means reduced carbon emissions and greatly reduced operational energy costs.”

Additionally, Zest WEG is supplying the Kamoa-Kakula project with a new 20 MVA, 33 kV/11 kV mobile substation, which is currently being manufactured in South Africa. The substation will provide stepped down power, and can be moved to supply power to different areas within Kamoa-Kakula’s mining footprint.

“Underpinning the performance of our equipment at the mine will be high levels of service and support from Panaco who is our Value Added Reseller in the DRC,” Martins said.

Ivanplats to trial Epiroc battery-electric drills and LHDs at Platreef mine

Epiroc says it has won a significant order for battery-electric mining equipment from Ivanplats that will be used to develop its greenfield Platreef mine in South Africa in the “most sustainable and productive manner possible”.

Ivanplats, a subsidiary of Canada-based Ivanhoe Mines, has ordered several Boomer M2 Battery face drill rigs and Scooptram ST14 Battery LHDs (pictured).

These machines will be trialled during the Platreef underground mine’s initial development phase, Epiroc said, adding that Ivanplats has the ambition to use all battery-electric vehicles in its mining fleet at Platreef.

The order exceeds ZAR150 million ($10.2 million) in value and was booked in the June quarter of 2021.

Ivanhoe indirectly owns 64% of the Platreef project through its subsidiary, Ivanplats. The South Africa beneficiaries of the approved broad-based, black economic empowerment structure have a 26% stake in the project, with the remaining 10% owned by a Japanese consortium of ITOCHU Corporation, Japan Oil, Gas and Metals National Corporation, and Japan Gas Corporation.

The Platreef 2020 feasibility study builds on the results of the 2017 feasibility study and is based on an unchanged mineral reserve of 125 Mt at 4.4 g/t 3PGE+Au, project designs for mining, and plant and infrastructure as in the 2017 study; except with an increased production rate from 4 Mt/y to 4.4 Mt/y, in two modules of 2.2 Mt/y, for annual production of more than 500,000 oz of palladium, platinum, rhodium and gold; plus more than 35 MIb of nickel and copper.

The initial plan is to start at a mining rate of 700,000 t/y before scaling up. An updated feasibility study on the plan is expected to be published before the end of the year.

Helena Hedblom, Epiroc’s President and CEO, said it was “encouraging” that Ivanplats is considering going all battery-electric at Platreef.

“Battery-electric equipment is increasingly embraced by mining companies as it provides a healthier work environment, lower total operating costs and higher productivity,” she said. “The technology is now well established, and Epiroc is driving this change toward emissions-free mining.”

Marna Cloete, Ivanhoe Mines’ President and CFO, said: “We want to be at the forefront of utilising battery electric, zero-emission equipment at all of our mining operations. This partnership with Epiroc for emissions-free mining equipment at the Platreef Mine is an important first step towards achieving our net-zero carbon emissions goals while mining metals required for a cleaner environment.”

Boomer M2 Battery face drill rigs and Scooptram ST14 Battery loaders are built in Sweden, and are automation-ready and equipped with Epiroc’s telematics solution Certiq.

The equipment will be delivered early to Platreef in 2022. Epiroc will also provide on-site operator and maintenance training to Ivanplats, it said.

Epiroc intends to offer its complete fleet of underground mining equipment as battery-electric versions by 2025, and its full fleet for surface operations as battery-powered versions by 2030.

Ivanplats eyes Platreef project fast track following Shaft 1 sinking work

An integrated development plan (IDP) on the Platreef palladium, platinum, rhodium, nickel, copper and gold project in South Africa has shown the potential to fast-track the development into production.

Consisting of an updated feasibility study and a preliminary economic assessment, the IDP marks an “important step in our vision of building and operating the world’s next great precious metals mine, together with our local community and Japanese partners”, Ivanhoe Mines Co-Chair, Robert Friedland, said.

Ivanhoe indirectly owns 64% of the Platreef project through its subsidiary, Ivanplats. The South Africa beneficiaries of the approved broad-based, black economic empowerment structure have a 26% stake in the project, with the remaining 10% owned by a Japanese consortium of ITOCHU Corporation, Japan Oil, Gas and Metals National Corporation, and Japan Gas Corporation.

The Platreef 2020 feasibility study builds on the results of the 2017 feasibility study and is based on an unchanged mineral reserve of 125 Mt at 4.4 g/t 3PGE+Au, project designs for mining, and plant and infrastructure as in the 2017 study; except with an increased production rate from 4 Mt/y to 4.4 Mt/y, in two modules of 2.2 Mt/y, for annual production of more than 500,000 oz of palladium, platinum, rhodium and gold; plus more than 35 MIb of nickel and copper.

The 2020 feasibility study includes an updated production schedule based on the current project status, costs and economic assumptions, with the schedule for the latest study driven by the sinking of the project’s second, larger shaft (Shaft 2), where early works have commenced. The 2020 study envisions Shaft 2 equipped for hoisting in 2025, allowing for first concentrate production in the latter half of the year. The initial capital cost for the Platreef 2020 feasibility study is estimated at $1.4 billion.

The Platreef IDP also includes the Platreef 2020 preliminary economic assessment, which is an alternate, phased development plan that fast-tracks Platreef into production. The plan uses the project’s first shaft (Shaft 1) for initial hoisting and mine development, with 825,000 t of annual total rock hoisting capacity, of which 125,000 t is allocated for development rock. The alternate plan envisions building an initial concentrator with a capacity of 770,000 t/y, and could produce first concentrate in mid-2024.

“The recently-completed sinking of Shaft 1 has created the opportunity to access early, high-grade tonnes in this scenario,” the company said. “While the 700,000 t/y initial mine is being operated using Shaft 1, there would be opportunities to refine the timing of subsequent phases of expanded production, which is driven by the sinking of Shaft 2.”

Once completed, two 2.2 Mt/y concentrator modules would be commissioned, and the initial concentrator would be ramped up to its full capacity of 770,000 t/y; increasing the steady-state production to 5.2 Mt/y for annual production of more than 600,000 oz of palladium, platinum, rhodium and gold, plus over 40 million pounds of nickel and copper. The initial capital cost for 700,000 t/y under the Platreef 2020 assessment is estimated at $390 million – substantially lower than the Platreef 2020 feasibility study that requires Shaft 2 for first production.

Detailed engineering has commenced on the mine design, 770,000 t/y concentrator and associated infrastructure for the phased development plan, which will be incorporated into an updated feasibility study in 2021, Ivanhoe said. The Shaft 1 changeover will take place simultaneously in preparation for permanent hoisting by early 2022. The budget for 2021 is $59 million, which includes $10 million for commencement of the construction of the headframe to the collar of Shaft 2.

“The Platreef IDP reflects the first phase of development for the Platreef Mine,” the company said. “It is designed to establish an operating platform to support potential future expansions to 12 Mt/y and beyond, as demonstrated in previous studies, which would position Platreef among the largest platinum-group metals producing mines in the world, producing in excess of 1.1 Moz of palladium, platinum, rhodium and gold per year.”

Friedland said: “The thick and flat-lying nature of the high-grade mineralisation of Platreef’s Flatreef deposit will accommodate the use of mechanised and state-of-the-art, automated mining techniques; allowing us to efficiently and safely bring material to surface to produce precious metals vital to a proliferation of modern technologies.”

Marna Cloete, Ivanhoe’s President and CFO, said approximately 60% of the mine’s tailings will be sent back underground to fill mined-out voids, and the remainder will be treated using sustainable, dry-stacking technology.

Mining zones in the current Platreef mine plan occur at depths ranging from around 700-1,200 m below surface. Once expanded mine production is achieved, primary access to the mine will be by way of a 1,104-m-deep, 10-m-diameter production shaft (Shaft 2). Secondary access to the mine will be via the 996-m-deep, 7.25-m-diameter ventilation shaft (Shaft 1) that recently has been sunk to its final depth. During mine production, both shafts also will serve as ventilation intakes. Three additional ventilation exhaust raises (Ventilation Raise 1, 2, and 3) are planned to achieve steady-state production.

Mining methods included in the studies are longhole stoping and drift-and-fill. Each method will use cemented backfill for maximum ore extraction. The production plans in both the PEA’s initial five-year drift-and-fill mining operation off of Shaft 1 and the larger feasibility study expansion are focused on maximising higher-grade areas, which was achieved through optimisation based on stope locations, stope grades, mining method, and zone productivities. The orebody was targeted to recover around 125 Mt at the highest net smelter return.

The ore will be hauled from the stopes to a series of internal ore passes and fed to the bottom of Shaft 2, where it will be crushed and hoisted to surface.

Comminution and flotation test work has indicated that the optimum grind for beneficiation is 80% passing 75 micrometres. Platreef ore is classified as being ‘hard’ to ‘very hard’ and thus not suitable for semi-autogenous grinding; a multi-stage crushing and ball-milling circuit has been selected as the preferred size reduction route, Ivanhoe said.

Improved flotation performance has been achieved in test work using high-chrome grinding media as opposed to carbon steel media. The inclusion of a split-cleaner flotation circuit configuration, in which the fast-floating fraction is treated in a cleaner circuit separate from the medium- and slow-floating fractions, resulted in improved PGE, copper and nickel recoveries and concentrate grades.

A two-phased development approach was used for the flowsheet design comprising a common three-stage crushing circuit, feeding crushed material to milling-flotation modules. Flotation is followed by a common concentrate thickening, concentrate filtration, tailings disposal and tailings-handling facility. The phased approach allows for increased processing flexibility and introduces process redundancy while allowing for phasing of capital and mine ramp-up, the company said.

To further evaluate optimisation opportunities and confirm additional detail design parameters, a mini pilot plant test work program is proposed and will be undertaken as part of the project implementation phase.

The proposed tailings storage facility (TSF) will be developed as a dry stack TSF with an estimated operating life of 32 years. During this time, some 55.4 Mt of tailings will be stored within the dry stack TSF, with the remainder of the tailings to be used as backfill in the underground mine. The dry stack TSF design also caters for an 8 Mt/y ramp-up in production to be explored in future studies.

The dry stack TSF is compliant in terms of required tonnage profile production split between the backfill requirement and dry stack TSF of 35% on average, but is conservatively designed for 40% of non-ore material reporting to the TSF.

Since the Platreef 2017 FS, a hybrid paddock deposition methodology was proposed; however, Ivanplats has decided to change the TSF deposition methodology from upstream design to dry stacking in the Platreef 2020 studies.

Following a study undertaken by Golder Associates Africa in December 2016, it was concluded that stacked tailings storage facilities are deemed to be safer in that there is no hydraulic deposition, hence the risk will be minimal to flood the surrounding areas with tailings in the unlikely event of a catastrophic failure.

“Stacked tailing storage facilities are more water efficient in that the majority of water in the tailings is captured in the dewatering plant, pumped directly back to the concentrator and re-used within the process,” the company said.

The stacked facility will comprise a starter dam constructed primarily of rock fill, engineered tailings, nominally compacted tailings, and random fill. Tailings will be delivered to the dewatering plant situated at the stacking facility using the same pumping systems from the processing plant. Dried tailings will be delivered to the stacking facility using load and haul transportation with trucks from the dewatering plant.

Aside from the rock fill in the starter dam and drainage elements, which include a return water dam, the facility will be developed using dewatered tailings. The infrastructure will have to be in place upon start-up.

For the Platreef 2020 PEA development scenario, it is envisaged to use the approved rock dump footprint within the immediate Platreef mine and concentrator areas, as a dry stacking tailings facility for the initial 700,000 t/y mine. Golder Associates currently is performing the design work to apply for the relevant licences and/or amendments to the existing authorisations.

Kamoa-Kakula copper project continues to track ahead of schedule, Ivanhoe says

Ivanhoe Mines Co-Chair Robert Friedland has hinted in its latest announcement that the Kamoa-Kakula project, in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, could produce first copper ahead of its planned September quarter 2021 schedule.

Friedland and fellow Co-Chair, Yufeng “Miles” Sun, said underground development at the Kakula copper mine continued to exceed expectations with more than 18.7 km now complete – 5.5 km ahead of schedule.

In July, the mining team achieved 1,638 m of underground development, which was 257 m ahead of plan for the month.

Ivanhoe says the Kamoa-Kakula project is unique as it combines ultra-high copper grades in thick, shallow and relatively flat-lying deposits – allowing for large-scale, highly-productive, mechanised underground mining operations.

Initial production at the Kakula mine is scheduled for the September quarter of 2021, with Kakula projected to be the world’s highest-grade major copper mine with an initial mining rate of 3.8 Mt/y at an estimated average feed grade in excess of 6% Cu over the first five years of operation.

The mine will have one of the most favourable environmental footprints of any tier-one copper mine, according to Ivanhoe. “It will be powered by clean, renewable hydroelectricity and be among the world’s lowest greenhouse gas emitters per unit of copper produced,” the company said. “It also will have a relatively tiny surface footprint as approximately 55% of the mine’s tailings will be pumped back into underground workings.” The latter is through a paste backfill plant that Beijing-based CITIC Construction is constructing.

The majority of the development headings at the Kakula mine currently are traversing medium-grade sections of the orebody, with average grades ranging between 3-5% copper. Several development headings are in higher-grade zones averaging between 5-8% copper, and this ore is being placed on a dedicated, high-grade surface stockpile at Kakula North that currently totals some 116,000 t grading an estimated 6.08% Cu. The lower-grade surface stockpiles at Kakula North, Kakula South and Kansoko together contain an additional 446,000 t grading an estimated 2.73% Cu.

As Kakula’s underground development progresses over the next few months, most of the working areas are expected to transition into the higher-grade ore zones near the centre of the deposit that have copper grades approximately 5-8%, Ivanhoe said.

Meanwhile, the high-capacity ore conveyor system at the Kakula North declines, which has a capacity of 2,000 t/h, is undergoing final commissioning and is expected to begin continuous operations shortly. Once this happens, the ore mined in the northern portion of the Kakula mine will be combined and placed on a blended surface stockpile. The Kakula South and Kansoko declines are not equipped with conveyor systems; as such, the ore mined from these deposits will continue to be placed on separate surface stockpiles, based on copper grades.

More than 300 truckloads, consisting mainly of structural steel and equipment for Kakula’s initial 3.8 Mt/y processing plant, are expected to arrive at the mine site before the end of August. Fabrication of the plant’s largest components – two ball mills, each measuring 9.75 m long and 6.1 m in diameter – has been completed at CITIC Heavy Industries’ factory in Luoyang, China, and the third and final shipment of ball mill components is expected to be on site by the end of September.

“The construction team at Kakula, led by Mark Farren, Kamoa Copper’s CEO, has done a fantastic job of keeping the project moving ahead at a rapid pace despite the logistical challenges posed by COVID-19,” Friedland said. “With each passing month, we are getting increasingly confident that we could be producing copper at Kakula ahead of schedule.

“We’re in a good place at the moment, with the vast majority of the major equipment needed to build the mine and processing plant already fabricated, and either at site, or en route to site. Full credit goes to our entire team for implementing and adhering to early and extraordinary measures to safeguard our workforce and mitigate the impact of COVID-19 on the mine development and construction operations.”

The Kamoa-Kakula copper project is a joint venture between Ivanhoe Mines (39.6%), Zijin Mining Group (39.6%), Crystal River Global Limited (0.8%) and the DRC government (20%).

The independent Kakula definitive feasibility study (DFS) and an updated Integrated Development Plan (IDP) for the entire Kamoa-Kakula mining complex is expected to be finalised shortly, Ivanhoe said. The IDP will include details on the planned expansion phases for the greater Kamoa-Kakula mining complex, incorporating updates for mineral resources, production rates and economic analysis.

Basic engineering design and costing for Kamoa-Kakula’s planned Phase 2 expansion, taking production from 3.8 Mt/y to 7.6 Mt/y, is also complete. The scope of facilities for Phase 2 includes underground expansion at the Kakula mine to reach an annual production rate of 6 Mt/y, the expansion of mining operations at the Kansoko mine to a steady state 1.6 Mt/y, a second 3.8 Mt/y concentrator plant at Kakula, as well as associated surface infrastructure to support the expansion at the various sites.

Ivanhoe advances Platreef development studies after Moolmans completes sinking

Ivanhoe Mines has announced another milestone at the Platreef platinum group metals project in South Africa, with construction complete at the 996-m level station of Shaft 1.

The achievement, completed well ahead of the contractual schedule, according to Ivanhoe, positions the company to equip Platreef’s initial production shaft, if it chooses to proceed with phased development of the mine on the Northern Limb of South Africa’s Bushveld Complex.

Sinking was carried out by contractor Moolmans, with the project remaining ‘Fall-of-Ground’ incident free since shaft sinking operations began in July 2016, the company said. On top of this, in June 2020, Moolmans and the Platreef team achieved South Africa shaft sinking industry leader status in terms of safety performance, according to Ivanhoe, which owns 64% of the project through Ivanplats.

Ivanhoe’s Co-Chairmen, Robert Friedland and Yufeng “Miles” Sun, said: “Given the flurry of recent transactions in precious metals markets, we are actively exploring a number of options that can help us unlock Platreef’s extraordinary value for the benefit of all Ivanhoe stakeholders.

“After all, Platreef is among this planet’s largest precious metals deposits.”

Platreef now has a completed shaft within a few hundred metres of the initial high-grade mining zone, according to Friedland and Sun.

“We have a mining licence, we have water and we have a team of highly-skilled employees,” they said. “The deposit has enormous quantities of palladium, platinum, rhodium, nickel and copper; and it has more ounces of gold than many leading gold mines.”

They concluded: “Given the current precious metals environment, I am confident that the pending studies will showcase the exceptional economics that one would expect from such a thick, high-grade and flat-lying deposit.”

Ivanhoe is updating the Platreef project’s 2017 definitive feasibility study (DFS) to account for development schedule advancement since 2017 when the DFS was completed, as well as updated costs and refreshed metal prices and foreign exchange assumptions.

The DFS for Platreef covered the first phase of production at an initial mining rate of 4 Mt/y, estimating Platreef’s initial average annual production rate would be 476,000 oz of platinum, palladium, rhodium and gold, plus 21 MIb (9,525 t) of nickel and 13 MIb (5,897 t) of copper.

Concurrently, Ivanhoe is finalising a preliminary economic assessment for the phased development production plan for Platreef. The plan targets significantly lower initial capital to accelerate first production by using Shaft 1 as the mine’s initial production shaft, followed by expansions to the production rate as outlined in the 2017 DFS, Ivanhoe said.

“The re-evaluation is being done in parallel with the ongoing mine development work to access the thick, high-grade, flat-lying Flatreef deposit that was discovered in 2010 and outlined in the Platreef 2017 feasibility study,” it said.

The new auxiliary winder for the 7.25 m diameter Shaft 1, which is scheduled to be delivered to Platreef later this year, will be used to assist in equipping the shaft; and thereafter for logistics, shaft examination and auxiliary functions. The auxiliary winder will provide a second means of ingress and egress from the shaft after removal of the stage winder.

Shaft 1 is around 350 m away from a high-grade area of the Flatreef orebody, planned for bulk-scale, mechanised mining.

Ivanhoe looks to align Platreef mine advance with palladium, rhodium price run

Ivanhoe Mines says it is fast-tracking a feasibility study on a smaller-scale, early-stage development plan at its Platreef palladium, platinum, nickel, copper, gold and rhodium project, in the Bushveld Complex of South Africa.

The move comes as spot prices of palladium and rhodium – two key metals contained in the Platreef ore – have soared in recent months. This has propelled Platreef’s ‘metals-price basket’ to a new, all-time high, Ivanhoe said.

Palladium prices surpassed a record $2,100/oz recently as stricter air-quality rules continue to boost demand for the metal used in vehicle pollution-control devices, while the price of rhodium has surged 32% already this month, attaining a price of more than $8,200/oz – the highest price since it hit more than $10,000/oz in 2008.

Ivanhoe’s plan would accelerate the mine’s first production by using Shaft 1 as the mine’s initial production shaft, followed by expansions to the production rate outlined in the project’s 2017 definitive feasibility study (DFS), it said. Ivanhoe’s smaller-scale mine design would also be optimised to target the highest-grade areas of the mineral resource in close vicinity to Shaft 1.

Platreef’s Shaft 1 currently is at a depth of 957 m below surface. It is scheduled to be completed to a final depth of around 1,000 m by the end of July. Work on Shaft 1’s 950-m-level station (pictured) – the shaft’s third and final station – is expected to be completed in March 2020.

Shaft 1 was previously expected to become the primary ventilation shaft during the project’s initial 4 Mt/y production case, with Shaft 2, around 100 m northeast of Shaft 1, providing primary access to the mining zones.

Platreef has an estimated 26.8 Moz of palladium in indicated resources, and an additional 43 Moz in inferred resources. This is in addition to an estimated 1.8 Moz of rhodium in indicated resources and an additional 3.1 Moz in inferred resources. Both of these are at a 2 g/t 3PE+gold cutoff.

In July 2017, Ivanhoe, which indirectly owns 64% of the Platreef project through its subsidiary, Ivanplats, issued an independent DFS for Platreef covering the first phase of production at an initial mining rate of 4 Mt/y. The DFS estimated Platreef’s initial average annual production rate would be 476,000 oz of platinum, palladium, rhodium and gold, plus 21 MIb (9,525 t) of nickel and 13 MIb (5,897 t) of copper.

Ivanhoe’s Kakula copper mine takes shape in the DRC

Development is speeding up at Ivanhoe Mines’ majority-owned Kamoa-Kakula copper project in the Democratic Republic of Congo, with the first access drives approaching Kakula’s initial high-grade ore and earthworks for the surface processing plant having now commenced, the Toronto listed company says.

Mining OEMs will be getting excited too, with tenders for long-lead mining and processing equipment now issued and orders expected to be placed shortly, Ivanhoe said.

In February, Ivanhoe unveiled a prefeasibility study for a 6 Mt/y mine at Kakula, which envisaged an average annual production rate of 291,000 t of copper at a mine-site cash cost of $0.46/Ib ($1,014/t) of copper and total cash cost of $1.11/lb copper for the first 10 years of operations. Annual copper production would step up to 360,000 t by year four, the company said. This came with an initial capital cost of $1.1 billion and would result in an after-tax net present value (8% discount) of $5.4 billion factoring in an average copper price of $3.10/lb. In addition to this, the company unveiled an updated preliminary economic assessment combining both Kakula and Kamoa into an 18 Mt/y operation.

Shortly after this, various stakeholders advanced money for the project, getting Ivanhoe, as the operator, and Zijn Mining, as a partner, to the point where they were both able to fully fund their share of capital costs required to bring the mine into commercial production.

In the latest update on the project, Ivanhoe said “excellent progress” was being made on the construction of the 6 Mt/y Kakula copper mine. Initial copper concentrate production from the Kakula mine currently is scheduled for the September quarter of 2021, with the initial, five-year, detailed mine design now finalised and production scheduling in progress.

The full, detailed mine design will be included in the independent definitive feasibility study that is expected to be published early next year.

Approximately 2,500 employees and contractors now are working at the project as Ivanhoe advances construction of the project’s initial mine at the Kakula deposit.

A total of 647 m of underground development was completed last month, some 100 m more than achieved in April. Lower-grade development ore is being stockpiled on surface near the site of the concentrator plant, which will be used for plant commissioning.

“Mine access drives 1 and 2 (interconnected, parallel tunnels that will provide access to ore zones) are approximately 200 m from Kakula’s initial high-grade mining area, and these priority drives are expected to intersect the higher-grade ore in late July or early August this year,” Ivanhoe said.

The underground development work at Kakula is being performed by mining crews operating large-capacity, semi-autonomous mining equipment, such as jumbo drilling rigs and 50-t trucks (shown above).

The Kakula mine access is via twin declines on the northern side (which have been completed) and a single decline on the south side of the deposit (under development). One of the northern declines will be the mine’s primary access way, while the other will be for the ore conveyor haulage system. The southern ventilation decline will serve as a secondary access and will facilitate the acceleration of critical, early mine development.

From the bottom of the northern and southern declines, a pair of perimeter drifts will be driven to the east and west extremities of the deposit and will serve as the primary accesses to the production areas. These drifts also will be used as the primary intake and exhaust ventilation circuits and will connect with the intake and exhaust ventilation shafts. Underground access to the first raise bore ventilation shaft has been reached, Ivanhoe said. The pilot hole for the 177-m raise bore has been completed, and reaming of the 5.5-m diameter ventilation shaft is expected to be completed next month, according to the company.

The primary ore handling system will include perimeter conveyor drifts and load-out points along the north side of the deposit. The perimeter conveyor drifts will terminate at the main conveyor decline. Connection drifts between the north and south perimeter drifts will provide access and ventilation to the planned mining areas.

Around 99% of the deposit will be mined using the drift-and-fill method, which was chosen to maximise the overall extraction of Kakula ore, Ivanhoe said.

The tailings will flow through a series of cyclones at the backfill plant, and approximately 55% of the tailings will be sent back underground into the mined-out workings as paste backfill. The remaining 45% of the tailings will be pumped to a small tailings storage facility that is being designed by a team of international engineers to meet global best practices for safety, Ivanhoe said.

“The detailed design for the truck-tipping area, where underground ore will feed onto the conveyor system for transportation to surface, and the conveyor system for the main declines, has been completed and component manufacture is underway,” the company added.

Three underground mining crews are working at Kakula. Once Ventilation Shaft 1 is completed and fans have been installed, an additional three crews will be mobilised to accelerate mine development, which is scheduled for October 2019.

Development of an additional access and ventilation decline on the southern side of the Kakula orebody is progressing well and has advanced more than 200 m, Ivanhoe noted. A surface piling rig machine has been mobilised to prepare for the raise bore civil construction for Ventilation Shaft 2.

The DRA Global detailed engineering work on the project includes the engineering and design associated with all underground mining infrastructure, the concentrator plant and all supporting surface infrastructure. This engineering work is running in parallel with an independent definitive feasibility study that is expected to be completed early next year.

“An agreed, detailed budget, and construction and implementation plan is being finalised with Ivanhoe’s joint-venture partner Zijin Mining,” Ivanhoe said. “The project also will be further optimised and adjusted based on the development progress of the project and on the results of the definitive feasibility study.”

On May 22, the project’s construction team commenced breaking ground for the surface processing plant, marking the start of the concentrator construction. The Kakula concentrator will be constructed in a phased approach with two 3 Mt/y modules, as the mining operations ramp up to a full ore-throughput rate of 6 Mt/y. Kakula is expected to produce a very-high-grade copper concentrate in excess of 55% copper, with extremely low arsenic levels, according to Ivanhoe.

The processing plant flow diagrams, process control descriptions, and processing equipment lists have been completed and piping and instrumentation diagrams are being finalised, the company noted. “Tenders for long-lead items such as cone crushers, ball mills, thickeners, high-pressure grinding rolls, flotation cells, regrind mills, concentrate filter and low entrainment flotation cells, have been issued to the market and bids have been received. The Kamoa-Kakula project team in conjunction with DRA is in the process of adjudicating the tenders. Orders are expected to be placed shortly.”

In addition, the tender for the plant civil works has been issued. All bids have been received and are under adjudication. Tenders for smaller equipment for the processing plant such as agitators and samplers have been issued to the market.

Earlier this month, the Kamoa-Kakula project achieved a total of more than 14.5 million work hours free of lost-time injuries – it has been approximately seven years since the last lost-time injury occurred at the project. “This outstanding achievement reflects the dedication to a safety-focused culture of the entire Kamoa-Kakula exploration and development teams,” Ivanhoe said.

Ivanhoe also provided an update on the upgrading work at the Mwadingusha hydropower plant, which it said was progressing well. This project is important to the Kamoa-Kakula project as it is providing clean hydro-electricity to the site from the national grid.

“Construction activities at the Mwadingusha hydropower station are progressing well and Ivanhoe expects that the full upgrading and modernisation of the hydropower plant and its six generators to be completed in late 2020,” Ivanhoe said. “This upgrading work is pursuant to an agreement with the DRC’s state-owned power company, La Société Nationale d’Electricité (SNEL), and is in exchange for a guaranteed 100 MW of electricity – more than enough power for the Kakula mine. The Kamoa-Kakula project has been receiving hydroelectric-generated power from the national grid since late 2016.”

“This installation of modern power generating equipment at Mwadingusha is an important step in helping to secure long-term, sustainable and clean electricity for the Congolese people and for the development of the Kakula mine.”

The upgrading work at Mwadingusha is being conducted by engineering firm Stucky of Lausanne, Switzerland, under the direction of Ivanhoe and Zijin Mining, in conjunction with SNEL.

Work is underway on a 220-kV electrical substation at the Kakula mine that will allow the mine and processing plant to be fully powered from the national power grid. Two new Sumec generators also have been installed at Kakula to provide power to the mine in the event of any power interruptions in the national grid.