Ivanhoe Mines has produced the first copper concentrate from the phase 3 concentrator at the Kamoa-Kakula copper complex in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).

The first copper concentrate production comes about two weeks after the Canadian mining company completed the construction of the phase 3 concentrator and feeding of the first ore into it.

Ivanhoe Mines said that the production milestone has been reached several months ahead of its schedule.

The phase 3 concentrator will process ore from the nearby and newly developed Kamoa 1 and 2 underground mines and the connecting Kansoko underground mine.

Its design capacity of five million tonnes per annum (mtpa) exceeds 30% than the original design capacities of the phase 1 and 2 concentrators.

Overall, the new concentrator raises the Kamoa-Kakula copper complex’s total design processing capacity to 14.2mtpa. It is also estimated to increase annualised copper production at the complex to more than 600,000 tonnes.

The Canadian mining company claimed that the new concentrator will make the Kamoa-Kakula copper complex the third-largest copper mining complex in the world and the largest copper mine in Africa.

Upon the phase 3 concentrator reaching commercial production, the engineering team will collect operating data to begin a de-bottlenecking programme to increase the processing capacity of the phase 3 concentrator above 5mtpa.

The team will also explore the possibility of advancing the Kamoa-Kakula copper project’s proposed phase 4 expansion.

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

Ivanhoe Mines also 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 proposed phase 4 expansion.