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Development of TSX-listed Ivanhoe Mines’ Kakula mine, the first of multiple planned mining areas at Kamoa-Kakula, in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), is said to be making “excellent progress”, with civil works advancing rapidly and initial copper concentrate production from the mine on schedule for the third quarter of 2021.

In parallel with the construction of Kamoa-Kakula’s Phase 1 Kakula mine, work progressed on the independent Kakula definitive feasibility study (DFS) and an integrated development plan for the entire mining complex during the full-year ended December 31, 2019.

 The Canadian miner on Monday said the Kakula DFS would provide “an increased level of accuracy” for the design, production schedule and expenditure for the initial phase of mine development at Kakula.

The integrated development plan, meanwhile, will include details on the planned expansion phases for the greater Kamoa-Kakula mining complex, and will incorporate updates for mineral resources, production rates and economic analysis.

 Following the completion of basic engineering and procurement, as part of the forthcoming Kakula DFS, Kakula’s initial processing plant capacity has increased from three-million tonnes a year to 3.8-million tonnes a year.

The expansion in initial plant capacity requires increasing the underground mining crews from 11 to 14 members this year to ensure “sufficient mining operations” to feed the expanded plant and create pre-production stockpiles of about 1.5-million tonnes of high-grade ore and an additional 700 000 t of material grading of between 1% and 3% copper.

According to Ivanhoe, this should allow the plant to ramp up quickly and maintain a steady throughput of 3.8-million tonnes a year.

In November 2019, the Kamoa-Kakula project team completed basic engineering design and costing for Kakula’s initial mine and underground infrastructure, the first concentrator module and associated surface infrastructure.

The updated estimate of the project’s initial capital costs is about $1.3-billion, which Ivanhoe said assumes commissioning of the processing plant in the third quarter of 2021.

Ivanhoe confirmed on Monday that it would continue to fund its share of about 40% of the initial capital costs and that it would fund its share of the capital associated with the 20% carried interest owned by the government and the DRC, from existing cash resources.

Ivanhoe and its joint venture (JV) partner Zijin Mining are also reviewing equipment and project-related financing options to potentially accelerate the timeline for Kakula’s Phase 2 development, which could mark a potential doubling of mill throughput to 7.6-million tonnes a year.

An independent preliminary economic assessment (PEA) published in February 2019 indicated that Kamoa-Kakula had a potential production rate of at least 18-million tonnes a year, and that once this expanded rate was achieved, Kamoa-Kakula was projected to become the world’s second largest copper mine, with peak production of more than 700 000 t/y of copper.

Last month, Ivanhoe announced an updated independently verified Indicated Mineral Resource which increased the combined Kamoa-Kakula project Indicated Mineral Resource to 423-million tonnes, with a grading of 4.68% copper, at a 3% cut-off.

The combined Kamoa-Kakula project Indicated Mineral Resource now stands at 1.4-billion tonnes grading 2.7% copper, at a 1% cut-off.

Meanwhile, Ivanhoe during 2019 also significantly expanded the size of its 100%-owned exploration licences in the Western Foreland area, where the miner now controls more than 2 500 km2 of highly-prospective land holdings in the vicinity of the 400 km2 Kamoa-Kakula mining licence.

The completion of the Kipushi mine redevelopment project’s DFS is currently still under way, and is expected to update and refine the findings of the prefeasibility study issued in December 2017 and will focus on the initial mining of Kipushi’s Big Zinc zone.

Additionally, the 950 m level shaft station at the Platreef mine, in South Africa, for Shaft 1 is nearing completion, with completion of the shaft to a final depth of about 1 000 m planned for mid-2020.

The concrete foundation for Platreef’s Shaft 2 headframe was completed in July 2019, and work on Shaft 2 has been temporarily deferred while the company completes its review of the phased development production plan.

Ivanhoe on Monday indicated that Shaft 2 was designed with an internal diameter of 10 m and equipped with two Koepe winding plants, one equipped with 40 t rock-hoisting skips providing the mine with a total capacity to hoist six-million tonnes of ore a year.

Platreef contains an estimated 26.8-million ounces of palladium and 1.8-million ounces of rhodium in Indicated Resources, plus an additional 43-million ounces of palladium and 3.1-million ounces of rhodium in Inferred Resources, at a cut-off grade of 1 g/t.