Ivanhoe’s DRC copper mine to double production ahead of schedule

Loading of high-grade copper concentrate into the transfer bin. (Image courtesy of Ivanhoe Mines.)

Canada’s Ivanhoe Mines (TSX: IVN) said on Tuesday that expansion of its Kamoa-Kakula mine in the Democratic Republic of Congo, the biggest copper operation to come online in decades, is ahead of schedule, with full production now expected in the second quarter of next year. 

Construction of the mine’s Phase 2’s concentrator plant was originally expected to finish in the summer of 2022, the company said. The 3.8 million-tonne-per-annum (Mtpa) facility, a “carbon copy” of the Phase 1 plant, has been designed to double production to about 400,000 tonnes of copper a year, Ivanhoe said. 

The Vancouver-based company said that as of the end of September, the Phase 2 plant was more than 50% complete. 

Kamoa-Kakula, the biggest copper mine to come online in decades, began production on May 25 and made its first delivery of bulk concentrates to the Lualaba Copper Smelter on June 1. Since then, shipments to the smelter have been occurring daily, the company said. 

Ivanhoe inked a deal in June with China’s Zijin Mining’s DRC subsidiary and trader Citic Metal to sell each 50% of the copper production from the copper mine. 

Kamoa-Kakula’s Phase 1 concentrator, the company said, has consistently achieved a run-rate throughput of 12,600 tonnes of ore per day (a rate of approximately 4.2 Mtpa). Ivanhoe says the figure is 10.5% higher than the design throughput of roughly 11,400 tonnes per day, or 3.8 Mtpa. 

The miner highlighted that during initial commissioning of the second filter press last week, it had reached a new daily production record of 721 tonnes of copper in filtered concentrate. 

Kamoa-Kakula had, by the end of September, surface ore stockpiles of about 3.6-million tonnes, grading 4.73% copper, containing more than 173,000 tonnes of copper, Ivanhoe said.

The company’s co-chairperson, mining magnate Robert Friedland believes the project will become the world’s second-largest copper mine and the one with the highest grades among major operations. 

The company has also vowed to produce the industry’s “greenest” copper, as it works to become the first net-zero operational carbon emitter among the world’s top-tier copper producers. Friedland has not yet set a target date for achieving that goal. 

Ivanhoe shares have doubled their value over the past year and last traded at C$9.12, leaving the company with a market capitalization of C$11 billion ($8.8 billion).