Kipushi reborn as the highest quality zinc mine

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Ivanhoe Mines and Gécamines, the DRC’s state-owned mining company, have signed an agreement to restart commercial zinc production at the Kipushi mine after 19 years of inactivity at the site, saying it will be the mine of richest zinc in the world.

The companies said the agreement sets out commercial terms that “will form the basis of a new Kipushi joint venture agreement” and establish a “robust framework for the mutually beneficial operation” of the mine.

Additionally, Ivanhoe Mines said the mine will average 36.4% zinc in the first five years of production. According to Ivanhoe Mines, the mine will also be powered by “clean hydroelectricity”.

Once the richest underground copper, zinc and geranium mines in Africa, Gécamines placed Kibushi on care and maintenance in 1993 due to “a combination of economic and political factors”.

Kipushi began operations as an open pit copper mine in 1924 – it was built and then operated by Union Minière for 42 years. It was the richest copper mine in the world at the time.

“[It’s] the rebirth of a mining legend,” said Ivanhoe.

Feasibility study

The companies said a feasibility study for zinc production also released today offered “outstanding economic results” from the planned relaunch, with a two-year development timeline.

The study suggested the relaunch of underground operations and the construction of a new concentrator with an annual processing capacity of 800,000 tonnes of ore. This would lead to 240,000 tonnes of zinc in concentrate container.

FY2022 is focused on mining Kipushi’s zinc-rich Big Zinc and Southern Zinc zones, with approximately 11.8 million tonnes of Measured and Indicated Mineral Resources grading 35.3% zinc. According to Wood Mackenzie, Kipushi’s exceptional zinc grade is more than double that of the world’s highest grade zinc project.

Ivanhoe acquired an interest in the mine in 2011. Its subsequent drilling campaigns increased the mine’s zinc mineral resources to approximately 11.78 million tonnes.

Alphonse Kaputo Kalubi, President of Gécamines, said the revival project would be “a benchmark for a successful combination of expertise, resources, a unique asset and a shared desire to create value for the parties. stakeholders”.

Bester-Hilaire Ntambwe Ngoy Kabongo, Managing Director of Gécamines, said, “We are delighted to bring our long-standing partnership with Ivanhoe Mines into a new phase that will bring significant long-term benefits to all parties.

Robert Friedland, executive co-chairman of Ivanhoe Mines, said the new agreements would enable the company to “responsibly, efficiently and rapidly develop Kipushi into an ultra-high-grade zinc producer with exceptional potential to find more zinc, copper, germanium and silver resources.”

Tree 5

Ivanhoe Mining noted last December that the FS included upgrading several vertical mine shafts and their associated headframes, in addition to excavation and underground mine infrastructure.

Ivanhoe upgraded and recommissioned Shaft 5, located at 1,240 meters depth. The main personnel and material reel has been upgraded and modernized, while the Shaft 5 rock lifting reel is fully operational with upgrades. Ivanhoe also installed two new rock carriers and support frames.

Shaft 5 (P5) will be the main producing shaft with a maximum lift capacity of 1.8 million tonnes per annum (Mtpa) and will provide the main access to the lower levels of the mine, including the Big Zinc Zone, at through the transport of 1,150 meters. level.

“Mining will be carried out using highly productive mechanized methods and cemented rock fill will be used to backfill the open pits,” the company said.

Material generated underground will be trucked to the base of the P5 shaft, crushed and hoisted to the surface. Personnel and equipment access is also via shaft P5. The Big Zinc area will be accessible via the existing ramp, with no major new development required. As the existing ramp is already below the planned first stoping level, it is relatively quick to develop the first zinc stopes for the ramp-up of mine production.

An optimized mining sequence has been developed for FY 2022 to exploit the richest part of the Big Zinc orebody sooner, accelerating mine development during the plant construction period. As a result, the average grade for the first five years of operation increased from 30.2% in EPF to 36.4% in FY2022.

Kipushi

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