Ivanhoe Mines’ (TSX: IVN) massive Kamoa-Kakula mine in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) has begun copper concentrate exports to international markets as the metal continues to trade close to all-time highs.
The first truck-loads departed from the mine on July 17 and will be shipped exclusively to China’s Citic Metal and Zijing Mining from the Port of Durban in South Africa, the Canadian miner said.
Ivanhoe inked a deal in June to sell each of the Chinese companies 50% of the copper production from the recently-launched first phase of the DRC copper mine.
Concentrates are packed in bags, each of them containing about two tonnes of the material. Once export clearance is received, which should take about five days, the trucks will exit the DRC and proceed to South Africa, Ivanhoe said.
Durban has seen looting and violence since July 8, with protests calling for the freeing of South Africa’s former President Jacob Zuma, who started serving a 15-month prison sentence for contempt of court.
Local logistics company Transnet, which oversees operations of the country’s ports and terminals, declared force majeure on July 12, announcing that it is suspending terminal operations in both the ports of Durban and Richards Bay on safety concerns.
Ivanhoe did not address the state of unrest in South Africa’s two most populous provinces. The majority of the rioting and looting has been focused on Zuma’s home province of KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng, where the nation’s economic capital Johannesburg and political capital Pretoria are located.
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 on a daily basis, the company said.
Phase 1 of Kamoa-Kakula, currently ramping up to steady-state production, is expected to produce 3.8 million tonnes a year, ramping up to 7.6 million tonnes per year in late 2022. After several phases of expansion, the mine’s peak annual copper production will be more than 800,000 tonnes.
Ivanhoe’s co-chairperson Robert Friedland believes the project will become the world’s second-largest copper mine and also the one with the highest grades among major operations.
The Vancouver-based miner 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.