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Kamoa Copper CEO Mark Farren, Kamoa Copper head of projects Steve Amos and risk control manager Wimpie Steyn holding some of Kamoa Copper’s first copper concentrate.
The Kamoa-Kakula mine, in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), has started producing copper, joint venture (JV) partners Ivanhoe Mines and Zijin Mining reported recently.

Production at the Phase 1, 3.8-million-tonne-a-year mine was achieved several months ahead of schedule.

Co-chair Robert Friedland described first production from Kamoa-Kakula as an “historic moment” for Ivanhoe and the DRC, while President Felix Tshisekedi said it indicated that the country was open for business and investment.

“Discovering and delivering a copper province of this scale, grade and outstanding ESG credentials, ahead of schedule and on budget, is a unicorn in the copper mining business. This accomplishment reflects the outstanding cooperation of thousands of individuals, and all of our joint venture partners at Kamoa-Kakula.

“Although this exploration journey started well over two decades ago, it also is noteworthy that the Kakula deposit itself was discovered a little over five years ago, which is remarkable progress by the mining industry’s glacial standards from first drill hole to a new major mining operation.

“The initiation of production puts us on the path to establish Kamoa-Kakula as the second largest, and perhaps eventually the largest, copper mining complex in the world. What really excites our geologists is the profound potential to find additional Kamoa-Kakula-like copper discoveries on our massive Western Foreland exploration licences right next door, in an identical geologic setting,” said Friedland.

Ivanhoe said it would provide an update on Phase 1 copper concentrate offtake arrangements in the near term.

In April, the Kakula mine mined 357 000 t of ore grading 5.70% copper, including 121 000 t grading 8.40% copper from the mine’s high-grade centre. The company will update May’s production in early June, and will continue with its practice of monthly progress updates.

Kakula is projected to be the world’s highest-grade major copper mine, with an initial mining rate of 3.8-million tonnes a year, ramping up to 7.6-million tonnes a year in the third quarter of 2022.

Phase 1 is expected to produce 200 000 t/y of copper, and phases 1 and 2 combined are forecast to produce about 400 000 t/y.

The phased expansion scenario to 19-million tonnes a year would position Kamoa-Kakula as the world’s second-largest copper mining complex, with annual copper production of more than 800 000 t/y.

Given the current copper price environment, Ivanhoe and Zijin are exploring the acceleration of the Kamoa-Kakula Phase 3 concentrator expansion from 7.6-million tonnes a year to 11.4-milllion tonnes a year, which may be fed from expanded mining operations at Kansoko, or new mining areas at Kamoa North (including the Bonanza zone) and Kakula West.