Ivanhoe Mines has revealed its copper mining joint venture in the Democratic Republic of Congo, which started production last week, has signed a 10-year deal to process some of its copper concentrate at a nearby smelter.
Congolese authorities last week reiterated a long-standing ban on copper concentrate exports, and said only mining companies with waivers would be allowed to export concentrate, reports Reuters. The ban has been in place since 2013 to encourage domestic processing.
The Lualaba smelter, majority-owned by China Nonferrous Mining Corp (CNMC), will treat up to 150,000 wet metric tonnes of concentrate a year from the Kamoa-Kakula mine Ivanhoe is developing with Zijin Mining in return for a treatment charge and market-based realization fee.
The 400,000 tonnes per year capacity smelter, which is around 40 kilometres (25 miles) from the mine by road, will produce blister copper ingots containing around 99% copper. The Ivanhoe-Zijin joint venture, Kamoa Copper, will then collect these from a storage area, Ivanhoe said in a statement.
The processing deal “will account for just under 40% of the total volumes of concentrates produced by Phase 1, making the most of available in-country smelter capacity,” said Kamoa Copper Chief Financial Officer Rochelle de Villiers, who is leading concentrate offtake and marketing negotiations. The first delivery was made on Tuesday, she added.
Mark Farren, Kamoa Copper’s CEO, remarked: “We are delighted with the progress we have made at the Phase 1 concentrator. As promised at the end of April, we have managed to move into full C4 concentrator commissioning ahead of plan, and we now are producing copper concentrate. The next challenge for the processing team is to ramp up the concentrator to nameplate capacity and reach our planned recovery targets.
“The mining team has continued to perform really well, with volumes consistently around the 400,000-tonne-per-month mark. This remains above the steady-state requirements of the Phase 1 concentrator. We will continue to monitor our mining performance against the ramp-up plan of the Phase 2 concentrator to ensure a smooth and efficient ramp up to steady-state production during 2022.”
Ivanhoe expects Kamoa-Kakula to be the world’s highest-grade major copper mine. Production started ahead of schedule on May 26, and Ivanhoe expects output of 80,000 to 95,000 tonnes of copper in concentrate this year and peak annual output of over 800,000 tonnes after several phases of expansion.
China Nonferrous Mining Corp
In a separate statement, CNMC said the tolling agreement would allow both sides to realise synergies upstream and downstream, without elaborating. Kamoa Copper is also evaluating the construction of a smelting complex which would produce blister and anode copper as well as sulphuric acid as a by-product.
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