Canada’s Ivanhoe Mines (TSX: IVN) said its Kamoa-Kakula joint-venture in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) had inked a deal with the country’s power company La Société Nationale d’Electricité (SNEL) to upgrade a major turbine, part of the Inga II hydropower complex.
The deal with state-owned SNEL will help Ivanhoe generate clean, renewable electricity to support the copper project’s expansion plans, and provide reliable electricity to local communities.
“The DRC is blessed with extraordinary hydroelectric potential. It is imperative to develop this potential because hydropower is clean, reliable and renewable,” President Félix Tshisekedi said.
“It is undoubtedly the most suitable type of electricity to support our country’s long-term development priorities,” he noted.
Ben Munanga, chairman of Kamoa Copper, said the new power-supply agreement will provide Kamoa-Kakula with priority access to a combined 240 megawatts of clean electricity from the upgraded turbines at Mwadingusha and Inga II hydropower plants.
The 40-year-old Inga II hydropower plant is located in the country’s southwest, on the Congo River. The waterway is the world’s deepest river and the second longest after the Nile, in Egypt. It is also the only major river to cross the Equator twice. Its rapids and waterfalls give it huge hydropower potential.
BMO analyst Andrew Mikitchook said the agreement provided flexibility for powering Phases 3 through 5 and a smelter to optimize the development of the Kakula-Kamoa mines.
“In our opinion, it is notable that the president of the Congo, his excellency Félix Tshisekedi, included commentary in the press release supporting the turbine refurbishment to deliver clean power to both the grid for public use and for development of Kamoa-Kakula,” Mikitchook wrote. “This level of public support for the project is positive.”
Ivanhoe’s co-chairperson Robert Friedland, who made his fortune from the Voisey’s Bay nickel project in Canada in the 1990s, has been working on Kamoa-Kakula for ten years.
The mining veteran believes the project, being developed in partnership with China’s Zijin Mining Group, will become the world’s second-largest copper mine.
“Until now, a key limiting factor in expanding Kamoa-Kakula to its full potential has been the availability of sufficient power,” Friedland said in the statement. “Given the project’s massive Indicated Resources of approximately 1.4 billion tonnes grading 2.7% copper, at a 1% cut-off, and the outstanding potential to find more high-grade copper, the new partnership with SNEL on Inga II gives us a clear line of sight to realizing our vision of building Kamoa-Kakula into the world’s largest, high-grade, green copper mine.”
First production at Kakula, the first mine planned at the Kamoa-Kakula concession, is expected before July this year.
The operation is initially forecast to generate 3.8 million tonnes of ore a year at an average feed grade “well in excess of 6% copper” over the first five years of operation.
Kamoa-Kakula is a strategic partnership between Ivanhoe Mines (39.6%), Zijin Mining Group (39.6%), Crystal River Global Limited (0.8%) and the DRC government (20%).