Ivanhoe keeps Kakula copper project ahead of schedule

Paving the roadway in Kakula’s new, southern box cut. (Image courtesy of Ivanhoe Mines.)

Canada’s Ivanhoe Mines (TSX:IVN) said on Monday that progress at its Kakula copper project, the first of multiple planned mining areas at Kamoa-Kakula in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) continues ahead of schedule.

The company, together with its joint venture (JV) partner China’s Zijin Mining Group, has now completed more than 17 km of underground development, of which 5.1 kms is ahead of schedule.

Ivanhoe also said that Kakula’s 2,000-tonne-per-hour ore conveyor system began operations in June, which will further increase the mine’s pace of underground development.

As work on extending the mine below the surface progresses over the next few months, the majority of the headings are expected to transition into the high-grade ore zones, Ivanhoe said.

The Vancouver-based miner noted that early implementation of covid-19 prevention measures has allowed the development of Kakula to continue uninterrupted. As a result, initial production is expected in the third quarter of 2021.

Cost increase

In November, the Kamoa-Kakula team completed basic design and costing for Kakula’s initial mine and infrastructure, the first concentrator module and associated infrastructure.

The report pushed initial capital costs up to about $1.3 billion — an 18% increase over planned costs.

Robert Friedland believes the project will become the world’s second-largest copper mine

Billionaire 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 legend believes the project, being developed in partnership with China’s Zijin Mining Group, will become the world’s second-largest copper mine.

According to an independent pre-feasibility study (PFS) released last year, if all phases are completed the operation is expected to reach peak annual production of more than 700,000 tonnes of copper.

The updated resource estimate for the massive project, delivered in February, shows it holds 1.4 billion indicated tonnes grading 2.74% copper for 83.7 billion pounds of copper and another 339 million inferred tonnes grading 1.68% copper for 12.5 billion pounds of copper at a 1% cut-off grade.

Ivanhoe’s stock was up 3.6% on the TSX on Monday afternoon. The company has a C$4.9 billion market capitalization.