China-based Zijin Mining’s board has approved an investment to support the construction of a 500ktpa smelter for Kamoa-Kakula copper project in Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).

Zijin Mining and Ivanhoe Mines each own 39.6% stake in Kamoa-Kakula project, while the DRC government owns 20% stake and Crystal River Global has 0.8% stake in the project.

The total investment for the project is estimated at around $769m, including $699m for construction of new smelter. With a construction period of three years, the project will be funded through Kamoa-Kakula Copper’s own cash flow.

China Nerin Engineering has secured a basic engineering contract for the direct-to-blister flash smelter at the Kamoa-Kakula copper complex.

Designed to be built adjacent to the phase I and phase II concentrator plants, the new smelter will feature an advanced technology supplied by Finnish company Metso Outotec.

The new smelter will be used for the processing of copper concentrate produced by Kamoa-Kakula’s phase I, phase II and phase III concentrators.

Claimed to be one of the largest and single-line blister-copper flash smelters across the world, the new smelter is designed to produce blister copper per annum.

China Nerin is planning to complete the basic engineering of the new smelter within seven months. It aims to order long-lead equipment followed by earthworks, which are expected to be commenced in the second quarter of next year.

Upon the commencement of the earthworks, the engineering, procurement and construction management (EPCM) contract is expected to be awarded.

In a statement, Kamoa Copper CEO Mark Farren said: “Today’s signing of the smelter basic engineering contract with Nerin highlights our commitment to the people of the DRC toderive more economic benefits from Kamoa-Kakula by maximizing in-country beneficiation.

“Achieving the transformative potential of Kamoa-Kakula’s unrivaled copper resources requires creative thinking that supports the DRC’s priorities of economic growth and diversification through value-addition, processing and beneficiation.”

At present, Kamoa-Kakula is producing a high-grade, clean copper concentrate containing around 55% copper and 0.01% of arsenic.

In October this year, Zijin Mining agreed to acquire Neo Lithium, a Canada-based lithium brine developer, in an all-cash deal worth C$960m ($770.45m).