Ivanhoe Mines has reported positive findings from an independent prefeasibility study (PFS) for the first phase of development of the Kamoa copper project in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). The project is a joint venture between Ivanhoe and Zijin Mining Group.

The Kamoa PFS focused on the initial phase of project development, describing construction and operation of a 3-million-metric-ton-per-year (mt/y) underground mine, concentrator, and associated infrastructure. The first phase of mining would target high-grade copper mineralization in shallow underground resources to yield a high-value concentrate. A planned second phase would entail a major expansion of the mine and mill and construction of a smelter to produce blister copper.

The PFS calls for feed to the concentrator to average 3.86% copper over a 24-year mine life, resulting in production of approximately 100,000 mt/y of copper in concentrate. Concentrate grade would average 39.2% copper, with very low arsenic levels.

Initial capital costs to build the project, including contingency, are estimated at $1.2 billion.

The Kamoa project is based on a very large, stratiform copper deposit with adjacent prospective exploration areas within the Central African Copperbelt, approximately 25 km west of the established mining center of Kolwezi. The PFS has identified several areas for further evaluation to optimize the project’s economics, including the use of controlled-convergence room-and-pillar mining, which has been successfully used by Polish mining company KGHM at its copper-mining operations in Poland for the past 20 years.

Ivanhoe’s mining licenses for the Kamoa copper project cover a total of 400 km2. The licenses are valid for 30 years and can be renewed at 15-year intervals. Mine development work at the project began in July 2014 with construction of a box cut for the decline ramps that will provide underground access to the initial high-grade mining area.