Ivanhoe Mines has completed the construction of the phase 3 concentrator at the Kamoa-Kakula copper complex in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).

The first ore was introduced into the new concentrator, which has been built ahead of schedule and on budget, said the Canadian mining company.

Ivanhoe Mines expects to achieve the first concentrate from the Kamoa-Kakula copper complex phase 3 concentrator in early June 2024. The ramp-up to commercial production at the new concentrator is expected in early Q3 2024.

The phase 3 concentrator is designed to process ore from the nearby Kamoa 1 and 2 underground mines and the connecting Kansoko underground mine. Its design capacity exceeds 30% than the original design capacities of the phase 1 and 2 concentrators.

Besides, the new concentrator raises the Kamoa-Kakula copper complex’s total design processing capacity to 14.2 million tonnes per annum (mtpa).

It is also slated to increase annualised copper production to over 600,000 tonnes.

The new concentrator is said to help make the Kamoa-Kakula copper complex the world’s fourth-largest copper mining complex and the largest copper mine in Africa.

Ivanhoe Mines founder and executive co-chairman Robert Friedland said: “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.

“Meanwhile, we have experienced much-improved power stability over the second quarter following our team’s proactive response to grid instability experienced in the southern DRC grid.”

Following the completion of the phase 3 concentrator, Kamoa-Kakula’s engineering team is exploring the possibility of expediting the copper project’s proposed phase 4 expansion.

Phase 4 concentrator, to be located next to the phase 3 concentrator, will have a minimum processing capacity of 5Mtpa. It will share common infrastructure with Phase 3, including the crushing and screening plant.

The Kamoa-Kakula copper complex is a joint venture between Ivanhoe Mines (39.6%), Zijin Mining Group (39.6%), Crystal River Global (0.8%), and the DRC government (20%).

Ivanhoe Mines aims to complete an updated life-of-mine integrated development plan for the Kamoa-Kakula complex by the end of this year.

It will include the phase 3 expansion, smelter, Project 95, further optimisation initiatives, and the planned phase 4 expansion.