Ivanhoe Completes Construction of Kamoa-Kakula’s Phase 3 Concentrator

Kamoa Copper’s projects and operations team standing in front of the new Phase 3 concentrator.
(Photo: Ivanhoe Mines)
First ore was fed into the Phase 3 concentrator on May 26, 2024, at Ivanhoe Mines’ Kamoa-Kakula Copper Complex in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). First ore marks the completion of construction of the Phase 3 concentrator, which has been achieved months ahead of schedule safely and also on budget. First concentrate is expected in early June, while ramp-up to commercial production is targeted for Q3 2024.

“The Kamoa-Kakula operations team continues its industry-leading execution with the early and on-budget delivery of the Phase 3 concentrator and underground mining operations ... a rare feat in an industry plagued by cost overruns and delays when it comes to complex, world-scale projects,” Ivanhoe Founder and Executive Co-Chairman Robert Friedland said. “During the 10 million man-hours worked on the construction of the Phase 3 concentrator, not a single lost time injury was recorded; another rare industry accomplishment. The lost time injury frequency rate and total recordable injury frequency rate for the project were both zero.”

Friedand said that power stability improved during Q2 2024 following Ivanhoe’s proactive response to the instability experienced with the southern DRC grid. “We’ve seen materially higher head grades and improved production over the past two months,” Friedland said. “We expect a stronger Q2 2024 from Kamoa- Kakula’s operations, reinforcing our confidence that production will align with annual guidance.”

Given the outperformance of Kamoa- Kakula’s operations to date, including higher than expected throughput and recoveries at the Phase 1 and Phase 2 concentrators, Ivanhoe said it is now studying options to boost copper production toward its next goal of 800,000 metric tons per year (mt/y) — a production rate that would propel the Kamoa-Kakula Copper Complex toward being one of the two largest copper producers.

In addition to the de-bottlenecking of the Phase 3 concentrator and increasing recoveries to 95% via our ‘Project 95’ initiative, Ivanhoe said it is now also studying options to accelerate the Phase 4 expansion at Kamoa-Kakula to target a throughput rate of at least 20 million mt/y. “Given the current copper market, and the expansive copper resources and reserves in proximity of the milling complex, we believe this expanded throughput rate would unlock substantial value,” Friedland said.

The Phase 3 concentrator will process ore from the adjacent Kamoa 1 and 2 underground mines, as well as the connecting the Kansoko underground mine. The design capacity of the Phase 3 concentrator is 30% larger than the original design capacities of the Phase 1 and 2 concentrators, which are located approximately 10 km to the south. The process design of all three concentrators is comparable, therefore the bulk of the equipment is the same or similar, resulting in a commonality of spare parts, while also leveraging operational and maintenance experience.

The Phase 3 concentrator increases the total design processing capacity of the Kamoa-Kakula Copper Complex to 14.2 million mt/y. Phase 3 is expected to increase copper production to more than 600,000 mt/y, positioning Kamoa-Kakula as fourth largest copper producer behind Escondida, Grasberg and Collahuasi.

As of April 30, 2024, a total of 2.25 million mt of ore at a grade of 3.1% copper is stored in surface run-of-mine (ROM) stockpiles adjacent to the Phase 3 concentrator. The stockpiled ore from the Kamoa 1 and Kansoko mines, containing approximately 70,000 mt of copper, is being used to de-risk the ongoing wet commissioning and ramp-up of the new 5-million-mt/y concentrator.

Dry commissioning commenced in early April, with first ore from the ROM stockpiles being fed through the frontend (crushing and screening plant) of the Phase 3 concentrator. A crushed ore stockpile has been created on the high-pressure grinding rolls (HPGR) feed stockpile area, at the end of the crushing and screening circuit.

Concentrate produced by the Phase 3 concentrator will be partially sold (via toll-smelting at the Lualaba copper smelter) to generate cash flow, as well as partially stockpiled in preparation for the commissioning of the on-site, direct- to-blister smelter. Concentrate produced by the Phase 3 concentrator has a higher sulphur content than the Phase 1 and 2, which requires less external energy input into the smelter during start-up.

As featured in Womp 2024 Vol 06 - www.womp-int.com