The Kakula Mine is being developed on the eastern portion of the Kakula Deposit ─ representing less than half of the overall 13.3km deposit


Kakula Copper Mine’s northern and southern access tunnels connected. (Credit: Ivanhoe Mines Ltd)

Ivanhoe Mines Co-Chairs Robert Friedland and Yufeng “Miles” Sun today announced a major milestone in the development of the tier one Kamoa-Kakula Copper Project in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), with the initial joining of the main northern and southern access tunnels at the Kakula Copper Mine ─ the first of multiple, high grade, underground copper mines to be developed on the project’s 400-square-kilometre mining licence.

The Kakula Mine is being developed on the eastern portion of the Kakula Deposit ─ representing less than half of the overall 13.3-kilometre-long (8.3-miles) deposit. The main access tunnels (drives) between the northern and southern declines at the Kakula Mine were connected (holed) in the high-grade core of the deposit, where the average grade is projected to exceed 8% copper.

This week’s holing has opened up the first two high grade, drift-and-fill mining blocks totalling 10.6 million tonnes at an average grade of 6.78% copper (5.7 million tonnes @ 7.04% copper and 4.9 million tonnes @ 6.48% copper) near the centre of the deposit (see Figure 1).

“Now that we have initiated development of Kakula’s first two high-grade ore blocks, it is important to note that these two areas alone contain more than 700,000 tonnes of in-situ copper, and approximately 600,000 tonnes of recoverable copper,” said Mr. Friedland. “With copper trading at approximately US$7,000 a tonne, the saleable value of the copper concentrate produced from these initial two blocks exceeds the estimated capital cost to develop both the first and second phases of production at Kamoa-Kakula. This is the true definition of a tier one mine.”

“The tunneling work completed to join Kakula’s northern and southern declines is comparable to driving a major tunnel ─ large enough to drive city buses through ─ from the east side to the west side of the island of Manhattan in New York,” Mr. Friedland added.

The Kakula Mine is expected to have a mine life of approximately 21 years, while the western portion of the Kakula Deposit – Kakula West – is scheduled to be Kamoa-Kakula’s third underground mine to be developed and have a mine life of approximately 16 years.

“The holing is a major achievement and milestone for the project team and our underground mining crews. It opens up the mine’s footprint for ventilation and, more importantly, marks our entry into high-grade ore from both sides of the deposit,” said Mark Farren, Kamoa Copper’s CEO.

“We have moved quickly to open up these high-grade reserves at the core of the Kakula Deposit. We now will complete the ledging work and prepare the drift-and-fill mining areas for production so that we can feed the concentrator plant with high-grade ore directly from underground when the plant starts operations in July 2021.”

“The holing was spot on and we are very pleased with the result. Ventilation has always been a key factor in determining how many underground mining crews can work at the same time. Air now is flowing freely between the northern and southern declines – a distance of more than four kilometres – allowing us to add additional mining crews in the high-grade drift-and-fill blocks as we require them. Each block in the central portions contains up to seven million tonnes of high-grade ore,” Mr. Farren added.

Underground development from the southern decline was performed by mining crews from JMMC, the DRC subsidiary of leading Chinese mining contractor JCHX, while development from the northern decline was performed by Kamoa Copper’s mining crews.

Marna Cloete, Ivanhoe Mines’ President and CFO (right), celebrates Kakula’s first holing with Jan Strydom, Kamoa Copper’s Managerial Leader: Operations (left). Mr. Strydom and his mining crews were instrumental in the successful connection of the main access drives from the northern and southern declines.

Source: Company Press Release