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Zinc Mine Reopens After 30 Years of Dormancy

Kipushi Mine in DRC to produce strategic minerals for clean energy

by Victor Adetimilehin

The Kipushi Mine, a historic zinc-copper-germanium-silver mine in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), is set to resume operations after 30 years of inactivity. The mine, which was once the world’s richest copper mine, has been revamped by a joint venture between Ivanhoe Mines and Gécamines, the DRC’s state-owned mining company.


A New Era of Production 

The joint venture partners announced the signing of a new agreement that will increase Gécamines’ stake in the mine from 32% to 38%, and then to 43% in 2027. The agreement also gives Gécamines the option to purchase and process the concentrate produced by the mine, which contains significant quantities of zinc, copper, lead, silver, germanium, and gallium.

Germanium and gallium are considered strategic minerals for the global transition to clean energy, as they are used in solar panels, wind turbines, batteries, and other technologies. According to Ivanhoe Mines, the Kipushi Mine has the potential to become one of the world’s largest and lowest-cost producers of these metals.

The joint venture partners also expressed their commitment to creating local employment, developing the local economy, and strengthening the DRC’s position on the world stage. The mine is expected to create more than 2,000 direct and indirect jobs and generate more than $1 billion in tax revenues over its 12-year lifespan.


Ahead of Schedule

The restart of the Kipushi Mine is ahead of schedule, with both surface construction activities and underground development tracking well for the first production, expected in the second quarter of 2024. The project has already completed the rehabilitation of the main shaft, the installation of a new headframe, and the upgrading of the power supply and water treatment facilities.

The project has also secured an off-take and financing facility term sheet with Glencore, one of the world’s largest commodity traders and miners. The facility will provide up to $200 million to fund the remaining capital costs of the project, and will also guarantee the sale of the mine’s output at market prices.

The Kipushi Mine is located in the province of Haut-Katanga, near the border with Zambia. The mine was first opened in 1924 and operated until 1993 when it was placed on care and maintenance due to political and economic instability. The mine has a rich history and a remarkable mineral endowment, with an estimated 18.3 million tonnes of ore grading 34.9% zinc and 0.65% copper.

The Kipushi Mine is not the only project that Ivanhoe Mines is developing in the DRC. The company also owns the Kamoa-Kakula Copper Complex, which is the world’s largest undeveloped high-grade copper discovery. The complex has already started producing copper and is expected to reach full capacity by 2028, with an annual output of more than 800,000 tonnes of copper.

The Kipushi Mine and the Kamoa-Kakula Complex are examples of how the DRC’s vast mineral resources can be harnessed for the benefit of the country and the world. By partnering with reputable companies and applying high standards of environmental and social responsibility, the DRC can become a leader in the production of strategic minerals for the green economy.


Source: Mining Review 

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