Kolwezi - Ivanhoe Mines (TSX: IVN) (OTCQX: IVPAF) Co-Chairs Robert Friedland and Yufeng 'Miles' Sun are pleased to announce 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.
Kamoa-Kakula also set another monthly mine development record in April, with an advancement of more than 3,625 metres, bringing total underground development to approximately 42.2 kilometres - more than 15 kilometres ahead of schedule.
Drift-and-fill stoping operations are progressing well at the Kakula Mine, with the majority of the ore production coming from stoping operations and the remainder coming from mine development activities. Drift-and-fill stoping is a highly-productive mining method of extracting underground ore, where a single tunnel, known as a stope, is extracted leaving an open void that is subsequently backfilled to allow for the extraction of the neighbouring stope in sequence. The backfill plant, which will mix tailings from the processing plant with cement to produce paste backfill, will begin pumping backfill to the underground operations in July.
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.'
Mr. 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.'
Robert Friedland to participate in a virtual fireside chat at the 2021 Goldman Sachs Copper Day on May 5 at 11:45 AM ET
Mr. Friedland will discuss Kamoa-Kakula's expansion plans, the company's Western Foreland exploration plans, his views on the global copper market and copper's role in the green energy transition. He also will provide his thoughts on the inevitable differential pricing for all commodities based on their ESG production characteristics as blockchain technology is integrated and smarter markets are established. The Goldman Sachs Copper Day conference is by invitation only for institutional clients.
In December 2020, the 35-kilometre-long double circuit 220-kilovolt (kV) power line to Kamoa-Kakula was connected to the national electrical grid through the New Western Dispatch substation in Kolwezi. Kamoa-Kakula's main 220-kV substation was energized with 220-kV power from the national power grid on March 25 and the first of two 33-kV transformers on March 29.
Three of the six new turbines at the Mwadingusha hydropower plant now have been synchronized to the national electrical grid, with each generating unit producing approximately 13 megawatts of power. The completion and commissioning of the hydropower plant's remaining generating units, in sequence, is in progress.
In April, Kamoa-Kakula's energy company signed an agreement with the DRC's state-owned power company to upgrade Turbine 5 at the Inga II hydropower complex. Turbine 5 is expected to produce 162 megawatts of renewable hydropower, providing the Kamoa-Kakula Copper Complex and associated smelter with abundant, sustainable electricity for future expansions.
About Ivanhoe Mines
Ivanhoe Mines is a Canadian mining company focused on advancing its three principal joint-venture projects in Southern Africa: the development of major new, mechanized, underground mines at the Kamoa-Kakula copper discoveries in the DRC and at the Platreef palladium-platinum-nickel-copper-rhodium-gold discovery in South Africa and the extensive redevelopment and upgrading of the historic Kipushi zinc-copper-germanium-silver mine, also in the DRC.
Kamoa-Kakula is expected to begin producing copper in May or early June 2021 and, through phased expansions, is positioned to become one of the world's largest copper producers. Kamoa-Kakula and Kipushi will be powered by clean, renewable hydro-generated electricity and will be among the world's lowest greenhouse gas emitters per unit of metal produced. Ivanhoe also is exploring for new copper discoveries on its wholly-owned Western Foreland exploration licences in the DRC, near the Kamoa-Kakula Project.
Certain statements in this release constitute 'forward-looking statements' or 'forward-looking information' within the meaning of applicable securities laws. Such statements and information involve known and unknown risks, uncertainties and other factors that may cause the actual results, performance or achievements of the company, its projects, or industry results, to be materially different from any future results, performance or achievements expressed or implied by such forward-looking statements or information. Such statements can be identified by the use of words such as 'may', 'would', 'could', 'will', 'intend', 'expect', 'believe', 'plan', 'anticipate', 'estimate', 'scheduled', 'forecast', 'predict' and other similar terminology, or state that certain actions, events or results 'may', 'could', 'would', 'might' or 'will' be taken, occur or be achieved. These statements reflect the company's current expectations regarding future events, performance and results and speak only as of the date of this release.