Ivanhoe Mines (TSX: IVN) has revealed a significant improvement in the potential production capacity of its Kamoa-Kakula copper complex in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The Vancouver-based miner demonstrated that by liberating copper from the tailings stream, a substantial enhancement in total recoveries can be achieved.
Since 2022, Ivanhoe’s process engineering team, along with international external metallurgy specialists, has been exploring ways to economically recover additional copper units from the tailings stream of the Phase 1 and 2 concentrators at Kamoa-Kakula.
In collaboration with Canada’s Expert Process Solutions, Ivanhoe has conducted preliminary metallurgical work, focusing on reprocessing the tailings stream to improve copper recovery rates. Initial results indicate that approximately 65% of the contained copper can be recovered from the tailings stream, generating a saleable concentrate with a grade of about 40% copper. This concentrate can be processed on-site at the direct-to-blister flash copper smelter, currently under construction, which is expected to have a capacity of 500,000 tpa. The copper concentrate grade from the Phase 1 and 2 concentrators is presently around 50%.
Based on these promising results, Ivanhoe has appointed DRA Global, a South Africa-based company with experience in the Kamoa-Kakula project, to design the construction of a dedicated processing plant to treat the entire tailings stream from the Phase 1 and 2 concentrators.
The improvements in copper recoveries have already shown positive results, with average recoveries of 87.1% during H1 2023 and periodic peaks of up to 90%. However, further advancements in copper recoveries present an enticing opportunity to generate additional revenue at Kamoa-Kakula.
Founder and co-chairman Robert Friedland highlighted the significance of this breakthrough, stating that targeting total copper recoveries in the mid-nineties from this effort and concurrent workstreams could potentially lead to a production profile exceeding 700,000 tonnes per annum following the Phase 3 expansion. This not only promises additional revenue and cash flow but also significantly reduces the project’s tailings footprint, a crucial factor in an era focused on the planet’s energy transition.
Shares of Ivanhoe Mines experienced a modest 1.0% gain in the market on Thursday, with the company currently holding a market capitalization of C$16.5 billion ($12.4 billion).
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