Ivanhoe's Kamoa-Kakula to begin production within a month
Ivanhoe Mines Co-Chairs Robert Friedland and Yufeng “Miles” Sun have announced accelerated construction and commissioning progress at the Phase 1 Kamoa-Kakula concentrator plant. The target date for C4 commissioning (milling of ore and first copper concentrate production) has been advanced to the end May or early June –several months ahead of schedule.
Overall construction of the project’s first phase 3.8-Mtpa concentrator plant is essentially complete, with the majority of the C1 (construction complete) certificates signed off. The plant is energized with permanent power and C2 commissioning, which involves electrical, control and instrumentation checks, is well advanced. Water is being circulated in certain areas of the plant, marking the beginning of C3 commissioning. C3 commissioning involves checking for leaks, certain instrument calibration, control loop checks, and is the precursor to C4 commissioning (hot commissioning), which involves processing ore through the plant to produce a copper concentrate.
Overall plant commissioning is running well ahead of schedule, with the first ore expected to be added to the mill by the end of May 2021. Lower-grade ore will be fed into the plant during the C4 commissioning phase, to ensure plant performance and copper recovery are satisfactory before increasing the head grade.
The 409,000 tonnes mined in April comprised 357,000 tonnes grading 5.70% copper from the Kakula Mine, including 121,000 tonnes grading 8.40% copper from the mine’s high-grade centre, and 51,000 tonnes grading 5.85% copper from the Kansoko Mine.
The project’s pre-production surface stockpiles now contain approximately 3.0 million tonnes of high-grade and medium-grade ore at an estimated blended average of 4.74% copper. Kamoa-Kakula now has reached the 3.0-million-tonne target of mined high-grade and medium-grade ore, several months ahead of the timeline estimated in the 2020 pre-feasibility study.
Contained copper in the stockpiles increased by approximately 23,000 tonnes in April – to a cumulative total of more than 140,000 tonnes (the current copper price is approximately US$9,950 a tonne).
Some of the approximately 7,000 employees and contractors who helped to build the Phase 1, 3.8-Mtpa concentrator plant ahead of schedule and within budget.
Mark Farren, CEO, Kamoa Copper
Mark Farren, Kamoa Copper’s CEO, remarked: “April was another month of great performance by our mining teams, who continue to produce well above plan. We now have reached our 3.0-million-tonne pre-production stockpile target. This stockpile likely is to grow further as our monthly mining rate currently exceeds the Phase 1 milling rate, and only should be drawn down once the Phase 2 concentrator begins operation in mid-2022.
“Even more exciting is the fact that we have been able to significantly bring forward the Phase 1 concentrator commissioning. We now expect to produce our first copper concentrate by the end of May or early June, months ahead of the original schedule.
“We have fantastic people on site, who continue to achieve very tough milestones. We expect to see the same kind of progress during our next challenge of ramping up the plant to nameplate capacity and design recovery. Many of the key contractors have been retained for Phase 2 to ensure continuity and to carry over learnings from Phase 1. Phase 2 construction is moving along nicely and is tracking slightly ahead of plan.”
Robert Friedland added: “We are proud of the entire Kamoa-Kakula team for their remarkable dedication and accomplishments to deliver our Phase 1 production ahead of schedule and on budget, despite the challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic. We would especially like to extend our deepest gratitude to the Kamoa-Kakula leadership team. Their unwavering passion, vision and commitment to excellence is critical to the ongoing transformation and growth of our business.
“The start of production at Kakula marks the beginning of a multi-generational copper mining district, consisting of numerous high-grade mines. We now turn our focus to scaling up this expansive copper region in a manner that is ethically- and socially-responsible, and setting a new global benchmark for the elimination of greenhouse gases in the production of copper that the world urgently needs.”
Kakula is projected to be the world’s highest-grade major copper mine, with an initial mining rate of 3.8 million tonnes per annum at an estimated average feed grade of more than 6.0% copper over the first five years of operation. Kakula is the first of multiple high-grade mining areas planned on the 400-square-kilometre Kamoa-Kakula mining licence.
The copper project is a joint venture between Ivanhoe (39.6%), Zijin Mining Group (39.6%), Crystal River Global Limited (0.8%) and the DRC government (20%).
Copper production from top ten companies to increase by 3.8%
Copper production from the world’s top companies is set to increase by up to 3.8% this year, following a fall of 0.2% in 2020, GlobalData analysis reveals. Last year’s marginal slump saw production drop to 11.76 million tonnes (Mt).
The initial impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on mining operations was immense, however, six of the ten largest copper producers succeeded in increasing output last year. In 2021, copper production from the top ten copper companies is expected to bounce back, rising by up to 3.8%, to reach 12.2Mt, according to GlobalData, a leading data and analytics company.
The highest increase in copper production was by Canada’s First Quantum, which, despite all the challenges, reported 10.4% growth in 2020. The company’s Sentinel mine in Zambia and Cobre Panama were key contributors to this growth. While the latter remained under care and maintenance between April and August 2020, it delivered record production levels during the subsequent months.
Codelco, the world’s largest producer of the red metal used in electric vehicles, also bucked the trend.
Vinneth Bajaj, Associate Project Manager at GlobalData, commented: “Despite Codelco reporting over 3,400 active cases during July 2020, the company achieved 1.2% growth in its production in 2020. The company implemented a four-phase plan, as part of the COVID-19 measures, to ensure the health and safety of its employees, while also avoiding any significant impact to its copper output.”
Although the overall impact was minimal, declines in production were observed from Glencore (8.2%), Antofagasta (4.7%), BHP (3.9%) and Freeport McMoRan (1.3%). Reduced operational workforces due to COVID-19 measures, lower ore grades and production halts due to maintenance were the key disruptors to output during 2020.
The move towards electric vehicles and clean energy from renewables sources such as solar panels and wind turbines has driven the copper price to all-time highs. Copper has been among the best performers over the last month where metals ranging from aluminum to iron ore have surged to their highest prices in years. The rally is being fueled by stimulus measures, near-zero interest rates and signs that economies are recovering from the global pandemic.