Hydro-powered smelter to cut Kamoa-Kakula carbon emissions

Staff reporter

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Inga II hydroelectric facility in the Democratic Republic of Congo

One of the world’s most important new copper mines will cut its carbon-emission intensity by 46% after the scheduled completion of a hydro-electric-powered 500,000 tonnes-per-annum smelter at the end of next year.

Independent assessment by UK-based Skarn Associates, and engineering group WSP, suggests Ivanhoe Mines-operated Kamoa-Kakula in the Democratic Republic of Congo will reduce its greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions intensity from 2.42 tonnes carbon-dioxide equivalent per copper tonne, to 1.31 CO2-eq/t copper. Ivanhoe says the complex will become the world’s third-largest, lowest-carbon emitting copper complex by 2027.

Industry peer data compiled by Skarn is said to rank Kamoa-Kakula “comfortably within the bottom decile of the GHG emissions intensities on a Scope 1, 2 and 3 basis”, according to Ivanhoe.

Kamoa-Kakula’s ongoing Phase 3 expansion, due for completion in Q4 next year, includes a new five million-tonnes-per-annum underground mine and concentrator at Kamoa, an on-site direct-to-blister flash copper smelter, and refurbishment of the nearby state-owned Inga II hydroelectric power station’s Turbine number five.

The expanded operation will transport 99.7% copper anode, instead of 50% copper concentrate, to coastal ports up to 3000km away.

Refurbishment of the No.5 turbine at Inga II is said to be 50% complete and on track to generate 178MW of hydroelectric power from Q4 2024.

Ivanhoe executive co-chair Robert Friedland said Kamoa-Kakula was the world’s lowest carbon-emitting major copper mine on a scope one and two basis.

“Kamoa-Kakula is proof that the Democratic Republic of the Congo will be the future of low-carbon copper production, with its unique high-grade mineral endowment, exceptional hydropower potential, and rapidly improving infrastructure, such as the Lobito Corridor,” he said.

Ore milled at Kamoa-Kakula at an average 5.5% copper in 2022 was about 10-times higher than the estimated average global copper head grade of 0.6%.

Skarn Associates and WSP said the Kamoa-Kakula smelter would have the fourth lowest GHG emissions of about 100 copper smelters worldwide.

Originally built in the 1980s, the Inga II hydroelectric facility has eight turbines with a total generation capacity of 1.4GW. However. it currently operates at about 50% utilisation, with turbine five having been non-operational since 2018.


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