On May 26 Beijing time, in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Zijin Mining’s Kamoa-Kakula Copper Mine produced its first batch of copper concentrate. As the concentrate rolls out of the huge, fast-running ball mills, the project’s Phase I 3.8 million-tonne-per-annum processing plant has been commissioned. The world-class, super-large Kamoa-Kakula deposit has been “sleeping” for hundreds of millions of years. Now it wakes up, and many eyes are on it.
[Chen Jinghe, Chairman of Zijin Mining]: Phase I of the Kamoa-Kakula Copper Mine in the DRC has been put into operation, thanks to the efforts of the shareholders and all parties involved in project construction. This is a significant event to the world’s copper industry, because Kamoa-Kakula is a world-class, super-large deposit, and a high-grade one.
From May 26, 2015 when Zijin signed the Share Acquisition Agreement on Kamoa to May 26, 2021, after precisely 6 years, the mine started production 2 months earlier than scheduled. It looks like a coincidence. In fact, it’s been a journey of surprises and tests, a journey that reflects the vision, efficiency, wisdom, and commitment of the decision-makers and those engaged in construction.
Six years ago.
Gold and base metal prices experienced a free fall, and much market volatility similar to that in the financial markets. The mining industry faced deteriorating situations. Against this backdrop, Zijin executed its strategies to find M&A opportunities.
The Kamoa-Kakula Copper Mine was one of the investment projects that Zijin had been paying close attention to.
In November 2014, Ivanhoe’s then CEO Robert Friedland discussed with Zijin’s then Vice Chairman Lan Fusheng in Shanghai about intentions for cooperation.
A month later, in December, Zijin’s Chairman Chen Jinghe led a delegation to the DRC for a field visit.
On May 26, 2015, in Xiamen, Zijin partnered with Ivanhoe, acquiring a 49.5% interest in Kamoa Holding, a company affiliated to Ivanhoe. The two began developing the world-class, super-large copper deposit at Kamoa.
[Chen Jinghe, Chairman of Zijin Mining]: Zijin invested in the project in 2015. If you add our investment in Ivanhoe Mines, we ultimately hold the biggest equity interest in Kamoa Copper. When we invested in the project in 2015, to a certain extent, we paid higher-than-market prices.
[Robert Friedland, Executive Co-chairman of Ivanhoe Mines]: “When Ivanhoe and Morgan Stanley started talking about this project, 47 international mining companies approached us, to become our partner. I am extremely happy to be forming this long-term cooperation between Ivanhoe and Zijin. And I sincerely believe that Zijin will become the No.1 mining company of China, the national mining champion of China.
The partnership deal also became a landmark “going global” event for the Chinese mining industry or even Chinese businesses. But what really changed the future of Kamoa is the Kakula deposit to its south, an area once considered unpromising.
During his visit to Kamoa prior to the deal, Chen Jinghe, a geologist by training, concluded that the southern section had good metallogenic conditions, and that it had the potential for the discovery of large orebodies. After becoming involved in the Kamoa project, Chen Jinghe strongly recommended looking for deposits in Kakula.
[Chen Jinghe, Chairman of Zijin Mining]: Soon after Zijin invested in the project, geological exploration in the southern section started. In less than two years, another 18 million tonnes of copper were discovered, of which, 7 million tonnes has an average grade of 6%. This is indeed an ultra-high-grade, large copper deposit.
Through continued exploration, the copper resources of Kamoa-Kakula almost doubled, from 24 million tonnes to 43.69 million tonnes.
The discovery of the Kakula deposit made the whole project a world-class one. Kamoa-Kakula became the world’s fourth-largest copper deposit, and the largest high-grade, undeveloped copper mine.
The discovery completely changed the project planning of Ivanhoe. Project construction then shifted to Kakula, which has the highest copper grades.
In November 2017, Phase I of the Kakula Copper Mine, which mostly uses Chinese technology, was kicked off. Some 7,000 professionals of various disciplines from over 10 countries were brought together for its construction, all working toward the goal of building a world-class mine.
Right at the crucial stages of Phase I construction, the COVID-19 outbreak hit the world. The mobilization of personnel and supplies was hindered, posing enormous challenges for the project.
Given the circumstances, Zijin made 2021 its “Year of Project Construction” and pulled Group-wide resources to support the construction of Kakula.
At that time, international flights were mostly suspended. Zijin sent core staff members and large quantities of supplies to the mine site through chartered flights. Thanks to close cooperation between the partners, the Kakula Copper Mine quickly adopted Chinese practices in pandemic containment, enabling mine development to move forward uninterrupted. Records for development were made multiple times.
In June 2020, even during the pandemic, Kakula Copper Mine set fresh monthly record for underground development for five consecutive months.
In September 2020, underground development at the mine advanced quickly, with over 2000 meters drilled, a new monthly record.
In November 2020, the northern and southern access tunnels of the Kakula Copper Mine were connected, and the center of the high-grade deposit was reached, allowing mining crews to extract ores simultaneously from both sides of the deposit...
为此，卡莫阿铜业CEO Mark Farren专门向中方建设团队致信，对紫金建设团队在面临新冠疫情、恶劣天气下的出色表现表示感谢。
Kamoa Copper Mine’s CEO Mark Farren wrote a letter to the Chinese construction team, KKCC, for the excellent job they have done, despite the challenges of COVID-19 and harsh weather conditions.
[Chen Jinghe, Chairman of Zijin Mining]: Phase I construction was indeed a tough job, done amid the global spread of the coronavirus. Our technical teams overcame many difficulties and completed construction ahead of schedule. Now we are working on Phase II of the project, which is expected to start production in the second half of 2022.
Zijin Mining and Ivanhoe see Kakula as a highly profitable mine. They also want it to become the greenest mine in the world, and a beautiful, harmonious mine promising common prosperity.
The Kakula Mine will have one of the most favorable environmental footprints of any tier-one copper mine worldwide. It will be powered by clean, renewable hydroelectricity. An independent audit of Kamoa-Kakula performed by Hatch Ltd. of Canada confirmed that the project will be among the world’s lowest greenhouse gas emitters per unit of copper produced.
[Chen Jinghe, Chairman of Zijin Mining]: When you operate projects overseas you must follow international standards and norms. So Zijin has stepped up efforts on ESG, adopting international standards on environmental, safety, social, and governance fronts. With the concerted efforts of all parties involved, I think Zijin will be able to become a leading global mining business.
In the meantime, the Kakula Copper Mine has also launched a sustainable livelihoods program, creating many job opportunities for the communities within the project’s footprint. It also helps communities develop textile production, crop cultivation, fish farming, and animal husbandry.
[Chen Jinghe, Chairman of Zijin Mining]: Over the years, as we do business across the world, we realized that we must commit ourselves to common development. This is our core value. First, wherever we develop a mine, we must win the support of the local government. We also need to take good care of our employees, especially local employees. We should make helping them grow our important responsibility. We should also treat our project contractors and partners like ourselves, and grow together with them. Communities are even more important. We take it our own responsibility to drive the development of local communities. From the bottom of our hearts, we want to help them develop through mining. By putting these concepts into practice, we have won the support of all stakeholders. It in turn creates great conditions for the further development of our company.
At present, Kakula has surface stockpiles of about 3 million tonnes of medium- to high-grade ore, with an average copper grade of 4.74%. The project will reach the capacity of 19 Mpta, which will make Kamoa-Kakula the world’s second-largest copper mine. At its peak, it will produce 800,000 tonnes of copper per year.
[Chen Jinghe, Chairman of Zijin Mining]: There is now a buoyant market for copper. People are very bullish about future copper consumption. Kamoa-Kakula plays a significant role in helping turn our five-year plan and our ten-year goals into reality. The DRC is home to rich copper, cobalt resources and other minerals. Much of these resources are yet to be tapped, meaning there are still plenty of opportunities. Recently, we are in discussions with the Congolese Government about further investments in the country. Zijin pursues the strategy of Going Global. Now more than 70% of our gold and copper resources are in our overseas projects. We already produce more gold abroad than from China. This year, our copper production in and outside of China will be about the same. But next year, we will produce much more copper overseas.