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Underground development at Ivanhoe Mines’ Kamoa-Kakula copper project, in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), totalled 2 172 m in October.

“This marks another new monthly record and brings total underground development to more than 24.7 km – about 7.9 km ahead of schedule,” the company notes.

The development work included 1 809 m at the Kakula mine and 363 m at the Kansoko mine.

At Kakula, both main access tunnels (drives) being advanced from the southern decline, and the spiral access drive being advanced from the northern decline, have recently accessed the high-grade zone near the centre of the deposit.

Kakula’s main access drives between the northern and southern declines have less than 100 m remaining before they are connected (holed) in the high-grade centre of the deposit. The holing will significantly increase ventilation to the centre of the orebody, allowing for additional mining crews to begin highly-productive mining operations in Kakula’s high-grade ore zones.

“We are encouraged with the current development performance. We remain on track to open up sufficient high-grade reserves in time to feed our Phase 1 and 2 concentrator plants with high-grade copper ore.

“The imminent joining of Kakula’s northern and southern main access drives will be a major milestone in the mine’s development. Once this is achieved, the opening up and ledging of the drift-and-fill blocks can commence in the high-grade core of the deposit, where the average grade is projected to exceed 8% copper,” Kamoa Copper CEO Mark Farren says.

In addition to advancing the main connecting access drives, underground mining crews at Kakula are focused on preparation work for developing the high-grade, drift-and-fill mining blocks in the centre of the orebody. Opening up of the mining footprint for these high-grade, drift-and-fill mining areas entails development work in areas of low-, medium- and high-grade ore, and is designed to coincide with the startup of the processing plant next year. This will allow mining crews to deliver significant tonnage of high-grade ore directly from Kakula’s underground workings to the processing plant.

Overall progress of Kamoa-Kakula’s first-phase 3.8-million-tonne-a-year mining and milling operation, including mine infrastructure, concentrator plant and surface infrastructure, is about 58% complete.

Construction of the project’s 3.8-million-tonne-a-year concentrator plant is advancing rapidly and is about 28% complete. The concentrator is expected to be mechanically complete in the second quarter of 2021, with first copper concentrate production scheduled for July 2021.

The Kansoko mine is being developed by training crews and will be a supplemental source of ore for Phase 2 of the project’s development when the Kakula concentrator processing capacity doubles to 7.6-million tonnes a year in 2022.