Tag Archives: Robert Friedland

Kamoa-Kakula copper production kicks off

Ivanhoe Mines has announced the start of copper concentrate production at the Phase 1, 3.8 Mt/y Kamoa-Kakula copper mine in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, several months ahead of schedule.

First ore was introduced into the concentrator plant on May 20 to perform initial hot commissioning tests on the ball mills and other processing equipment. The initial mill feed grade reached approximately 4% Cu shortly after start-up.

As of May 25, 5-6% Cu ore was being conveyed directly from Kakula’s underground mining operations to the run-of-mine stockpile and the concentrator. Based on extensive test work, the concentrator is expected to produce a very high-grade, clean concentrate grading approximately 57% Cu, with extremely low arsenic levels, the company says.

Robert Friedland, Ivanhoe Mines Co-Chairman, said: “This is a historic moment for Ivanhoe Mines and the Democratic Republic of Congo. Discovering and delivering a copper province of this scale, grade and outstanding environmental, social and governance credentials, ahead of schedule and on budget, is a unicorn in the copper mining business. This accomplishment reflects the outstanding cooperation of thousands of individuals, and all of our joint-venture partners at Kamoa-Kakula.”

He added: “Although this exploration journey started well over two decades ago, it also is noteworthy that the Kakula deposit itself was discovered a little over five years ago, which is remarkable progress by the mining industry’s glacial standards from first drill hole to a new major mining operation.”

The initiation of production puts Ivanhoe on the path to establish Kamoa-Kakula as the second largest copper mining complex in the world, according to Friedland.

“What really excites our geologists is the profound potential to find additional Kamoa-Kakula-like copper discoveries on our massive Western Foreland exploration licences right next door, in an identical geologic setting,” he said.

Co-Chairman, Miles Sun, added: “The inception of Phase 1 is the birth of a copper complex that will benefit generations to come, and we very much look forward to the upcoming phases of expansion and exploration opportunities.

“Huge congratulations to the entire Ivanhoe Mines team and a roaring applause to all the hard-working suppliers and contractors for collectively completing this mammoth undertaking!”

Ivanhoe’s guidance for contained copper in concentrate expected to be produced by the Kamoa-Kakula project for the balance of 2021 assumes a ramp-up from first production in line with published technical disclosures, with contained copper in concentrate output of 80,000-95,000 t.

In April, the Kakula Mine mined 357,000 t of ore grading 5.7% Cu, including 121,000 t grading 8.4% Cu from the mine’s high-grade centre.

Kakula, Ivanhoe says, is projected to be the world’s highest-grade major copper mine, with an initial mining rate of 3.8 Mt/y, ramping up to 7.6 Mt/y in the September quarter of 2022. Phase 1 is expected to produce approximately 200,000 t/y of copper, and phases 1 and 2 combined are forecast to produce approximately 400,000 t/y of copper.

Based on independent benchmarking, the project’s phased expansion scenario to 19 Mt/y would position Kamoa-Kakula as the world’s second-largest copper mining complex, with peak annual copper production of more than 800,000 t.

Given the current copper price environment, Ivanhoe and its partner Zijin are exploring the acceleration of the Kamoa-Kakula Phase 3 concentrator expansion from 7.6 Mt/y to 11.4 Mt/y, which may be fed from expanded mining operations at Kansoko, or new mining areas at Kamoa North (including the Bonanza Zone) and Kakula West.

The Kamoa-Kakula copper project is a joint venture between Ivanhoe Mines (39.6%), Zijin Mining Group (39.6%), Crystal River Global Ltd (0.8%) and the Government of the Democratic Republic of Congo (20%).

Alongside this announcement, the company confirmed that Kamoa Copper had appointed Société Générale de Surveillance (SGS) CONGO SA, an accredited laboratory service provider, for on-site analytical services. SGS is one of the world’s leading inspection, verification, testing and certification companies. The new assay laboratory is equipped with state-of-the-art equipment.

Results for various mine, exploration and processing sample types will be reported using a wide range of analytical techniques that are specifically selected to provide accurate and precise results within the time required to efficiently control concentrator and mine processes.

Process control samples will be analysed using portable X-ray Fluorescence (pXRF) devices with a quick turnaround time for concentrator plant monitoring and control. Metal accounting samples will be analysed by using two simultaneous ICP-OES multi-element instruments. The dual measurement mode of the ICP-OES instrumentation enables the analysis of critical elements such as mercury, arsenic, lead, etc by providing high measurement sensitivity while the combination of two-sample digestion methods (fusion and acid digestion) will cover a wide range of analytic levels, Ivanhoe said.

The high-grade copper samples will be analysed using the classical iodide titration method, which provides good accuracy and precision that is required for the dispatch samples, the company said. Convenient and flexible potentiometric auto titrators provide efficient and accurate results that are fully traceable to international methods and standards.

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.

Clean TeQ spells out battery raw materials potential of Sunrise project

Clean TeQ Holdings and Fluor Australia have come up with a Project Execution Plan (PEP) for the Sunrise Battery Materials project in New South Wales, Australia, that, Clean TeQ says, confirms the asset’s status as one of the world’s lowest cost, development-ready sources of critical battery raw materials.

This builds on a 2018 definitive feasibility study on Sunrise that modelled the first 25 years of production at the project.

In production, it will be a major supplier of nickel and cobalt to the lithium-ion battery market, and scandium to the aerospace, consumer electronics and automotive sectors, according to Clean TeQ.

The PEP scope of works included a range of studies which have optimised metal production rates while holding autoclave ore feed constant at the approved maximum 2.5 Mt/y, it said. This saw average annual (metal equivalent) production rates of 21,293 t of nickel and 4,366 t of cobalt in years two to 11; and 18,439 t of nickel and 3,179 t of cobalt from year two to 25.

On top of this, the PEP considered a scandium oxide refining capacity of up to 20 t/y installed from year three, which can readily be expanded to 80 t/y with around A$25 million ($18 million) capital expenditure on additional refining capacity.

“As the scandium market grows, future investment in a dedicated resin-in-pulp scandium extraction circuit and further refining capacity offers the potential to increase by-product scandium production to up to approximately 150 tonnes per annum,” Clean TeQ said.

The pre-production capital cost estimate of $1.658 billion (excluding $168 million estimated contingency) reflects a significantly de-risked capital cost, with approximately 79% of total equipment and materials costs covered by vendor quotations, Clean TeQ said. Submissions were also obtained from contractors to validate the labour costs included in the total direct cost.

On the operating expenditure side, C1 costs came in at $4.31/Ib ($9,503/t) of nickel before by-product credits in years 2-11 and $4.58/Ib before by-product credits over years 2-25.

Using weighted average forecast (metal equivalent) sulphate prices over the life of mine of $24,200/t (including sulphate premium) for nickel and $59,200/t of cobalt, the project would generate a post-tax net present value of $1.21 billion, the company said.

Future value optimisation studies to assess opportunities to reduce capital expenditure in areas of off-site pre-assembly, modularisation and low-cost offshore procurement could further improve this return, it said.

The PEP assumed the project execution on an engineering, procurement and construction management (EPCM) basis. Prior to making a final investment decision, Clean TeQ will select an EPCM contractor for the engineering, procurement and construction phase of the project, it said.

Clean TeQ Co-Chairman, Robert Friedland, said: “Auto supply chains are coming to realise they are playing a game of nickel and cobalt musical chairs. We are half-way through the second verse and the music will eventually stop.

“We have a clear vision for how to create a sustainable auto supply chain of the future. Our team is proud to present that vision today. Sunrise is a long-life, low-cost, development-ready asset which is a template for consistent, sustainable and auditable nickel and cobalt supply. We cannot anticipate how long it will take to have the project funded and in development, but we can be patient with such a strategically important asset, and we are fully committed to ensuring it is developed with partners who understand the value that responsible supply chain integration brings.”

Although the level of activity associated with the PEP study and engineering works will now significantly reduce, Clean TeQ said a range of work-streams will continue in order to progress a number of value-adding deliverables aimed at minimising project restart time once funding is secured:

  • Work will be progressed on the long-lead electrical transmission line (ETL) work scope. The ETL application to connect to the NSW electrical grid is currently in progress and will continue through the 2021 financial year;
  • Progressing ongoing commercial discussions with landowners, local councils, the New South Wales state government and other impacted parties required for land access agreements for key infrastructure including the water pipeline and the ETL;
  • Surveying and planning for autoclave and oversize equipment transport routes to site;
  • Preliminary investigations to be undertaken on exploration licences for limestone resources, a key process reagent for which the company currently has a supply contract in place with a third party;
  • Test work and engineering assessing opportunities for potential further downstream processing of sulphates into battery precursor materials;
  • Ongoing environmental work including monitoring and compliance reporting;
  • The Sunrise Community Consultative Committee will be maintained along with several local community engagement/support programs; and
  • A range of scandium alloy development programs will continue to be progressed, consistent with Clean TeQ’s long term strategy to work with, and assist, industry players to investigate and develop new applications for scandium-aluminium alloys.

Latest Kamoa-Kakula copper studies reaffirm project’s world-class status

The latest economic studies on Ivanhoe Mines and Zijin Mining Group’s majority-owned Kamoa-Kakula project in the Democratic Republic of Congo have indicated the asset could become the world’s second largest copper mining complex.

First production at Kamoa-Kakula is less than a year away, but the project partners have continued with a series of economic studies that emphasise the world-class nature of the orebodies within their control.

The headline maker is the results of a preliminary economic assessment that has evaluated an integrated, multi-staged development to achieve a 19 Mt/y production rate at the mine, with peak annual copper production of more than 800,000 t.

At the same time, a prefeasibility study (PFS) has been carried out to look at mining 1.6 Mt/y from the Kansoko mine, in addition to 6 Mt/y already planned to be mined from Kakula, to fill a 7.6 Mt/y processing plant at Kakula.

A definitive feasibility study (DFS) has also evaluated the stage-one, 6 Mt/y plan at Kakula, which is currently being constructed and is less than a year away from producing first copper, according to Ivanhoe Co-Chair, Robert Friedland.

While the operation looks to have the scale of a world-class asset, it will also have top ranking ‘green’ credentials, according to Friedland.

“The Kakula mine has been designed to produce the world’s most environmentally-responsible copper, which is crucial for today’s new generation of environmentally- and socially-focused investors,” he said.

“Zijin shares our commitment to build the new mines at Kamoa-Kakula to industry-leading standards in terms of resource efficiency, water and energy usage, and minimising emissions. We are blessed with ultra-high copper grades in thick, shallow and flat-lying orebodies – allowing for large-scale, highly-productive, mechanised underground mining operations; and access to abundant clean, sustainable hydro electricity to power our mines – providing us with a distinct advantage in our goal to become the world’s ‘greenest’ copper miner and be among the world’s lowest greenhouse gas emitters per unit of copper produced.”

The project recently retained Hatch of Mississauga, Canada, to independently audit the greenhouse gas intensity metrics for the copper that will be produced at Kamoa-Kakula.

The Kamoa-Kakula Integrated Development Plan (IDP) 2020, as the companies refer to it, builds on the results of the previous studies announced in February 2019.

DFS to 6 Mt/y

The new DFS incorporates the advancement of development and construction activities to date, and has once again confirmed the outstanding economics of the first phase Kakula Mine, Ivanhoe said.

It evaluates the development of a stage one, 6 Mtpa underground mine and surface processing complex at the Kakula deposit with a capacity of 7.6 Mt/y, built in two modules of 3.8 Mt/y, with the first already under advanced construction (see photo). It comes with an internal rate of return of 77% and project payback period of 2.3 years.

The first module of 3.8 Mt/y commences production in the September quarter of 2021, and the second in the March quarter of 2023. The life-of-mine production scenario provides for 110 Mt to be mined at an average grade of 5.22% Cu, producing 8.5 Mt of high-grade copper concentrate.

The Kakula 2020 DFS mine access is via twin declines on the north side and a single decline on the south side of the deposit. One of the north declines will serve as the primary mine access, while the other decline is for the conveyor haulage system, which was recently commissioned.

The primary ore handling system will include a perimeter conveyor system connected to truck load-out points along the north side of the deposit. The perimeter conveyor system will terminate at the main conveyor decline.

The mining method for the Kakula deposit is primarily drift-and-fill using paste backfill (around 99%); with the exception of a room-and-pillar area close to the north declines, which will be mined in the early years of production. The paste backfill system will use a paste plant located on surface connected to a distribution system that includes a surface pipe network connected to bore holes located at each connection drive on the north side of the orebody, the company says.

The Kakula concentrator design incorporates a run-of-mine stockpile, followed by primary cone crushers operating in closed circuit with vibrating screens to produce 100% passing 50 mm material that is stockpiled.

At the end of August, the project’s pre-production surface ore stockpiles totalled an estimated 671,000 t grading 3.36% Cu, including 116,000 t of high-grade ore grading 6.08% Cu.

The crushed ore is fed to the high pressure grinding rolls operating in closed circuit with wet screening, at a product size of 80% (P80) passing 4.5 mm, which is gravity fed to the milling circuit.

The milling circuit incorporates two stages of ball milling in series in closed circuit with cyclone clusters for further size reduction and classification to a target grind size of 80% passing 53 micrometres (µm).

The milled slurry is pumped to the rougher and scavenger flotation circuit where the high-grade, or fast-floating rougher concentrate, and medium-grade, or slow-floating scavenger concentrate, are separated for further upgrading. The rougher concentrate is upgraded in the low entrainment high-grade cleaner stage to produce a high-grade concentrate.

The medium-grade or scavenger concentrate together with the tailings from the high-grade cleaner stage and the recycled scavenger recleaner tailings are combined and further upgraded in the scavenger cleaner circuit. The concentrate produced from the scavenger cleaner circuit, representing roughly 12% of the mill feed, is re-ground to a P80 of 10 µm prior to final cleaning in the low entrainment scavenger recleaner stage.

The scavenger recleaner concentrate is then combined with the high-grade cleaner concentrate to form final concentrate. The final concentrate is then thickened and pumped to the concentrate filter. Final filtered concentrate is then bagged for shipment to market.

The scavenger tailings and scavenger cleaner tailings are combined and thickened prior to being pumped to the backfill plant and/or to the tailings storage facility. Backfill will use approximately half of the tailings, with the remaining amount pumped to the tailings storage facility.

Based on extensive test work, the concentrator is expected to achieve an overall recovery of 85%, producing a very high-grade concentrate grading 57% copper. Kakula also benefits from having very low deleterious elements, including arsenic levels of 0.02%.

7.6 Mt/y PFS

The PFS evaluating mining 1.6 Mt/y from the Kansoko mine envisages an average annual production rate of 331,000 t of copper at a total cash cost of $1.23/lb copper for the first 10 years of operations, and annual copper production of up to 427,000 t by year four. This comes with an internal rate of return of 69% and project payback period of 2.5 years, according to Ivanhoe.

Development would see Kakula-Kansoko benefit from an ultra-high, average feed grade of 6.2% Cu over the first five years of operations, and 4.5% Cu on average over a 37-year mine life.

There are currently two mining crews at Kansoko, in addition to the 10 mining crews (three owner crews and seven contractor crews) currently at Kakula, with the ability to increase this number to fast-track the development of Kansoko, Ivanhoe said.

19 Mt/y option

The Kamoa-Kakula 2020 PEA presents initial production from Kakula at a rate of 6 Mt/y, followed by subsequent, separate underground mining operations at the nearby Kansoko, Kakula West and Kamoa North mines, along with the construction of a 1 Mt/y of concentrate direct-to-blister smelter. The smelter section of the study saw China Nerin Engineering act as the main engineering consultant with Outotec providing design and costing for propriety equipment.

The Kamoa North Area comprises five separate mines that will be developed as resources are mined out elsewhere to maintain the production rate at up to 19 Mt/y, with an overall life in excess of 40 years, Ivanhoe says.

For this integrated 19 Mt/y option, the PEA envisages $700 million in remaining initial capital costs, with future expansion at Kansoko, Kakula West and Kamoa North funded by cash flows from the Kakula mine, resulting in an internal rate of return of 56.2% and a payback period of 3.6 years.

This shows the potential for average annual production of 501,000 t of copper at a total cash cost of $1.07/lb copper during the first 10 years of operations and production of 805,000 t/y of copper by year eight, Ivanhoe said.

“At this future production rate, Kamoa-Kakula would rank as the world’s second largest copper mine,” the company said.

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.