Ivanhoe Mines reported on April 26 that the Kamoa-Kakula copper project in the Democratic Republic of the Congo would receive a boost to its renewable power supply thanks to a planned upgrade to Turbine 5 at the Inga II hydropower complex.
Ivanhoe Mines Energy DRC signed a memorandum of understanding with the DRC’s state-owned power company La Société Nationale d'Electricité (SNEL) to upgrade the turbine. The planned upgrade to the turbine will raise its output by an estimated 162 megawatts, part of which will go towards powering the project, with any excess added to the national power grid.
According to executive co-chairman Robert Friedland, the turbine upgrade will be crucial to the ongoing development of the Kamoa-Kakula project. “A long-term, sustainable supply of electricity is essential to Ivanhoe's vision to develop Kamoa-Kakula into one of the world's largest copper projects and doing it in an environmentally, ethically and socially responsible manner.” The public-private partnership between Ivanhoe Mines and SNEL began with a similar upgrade of the Mwadingusha hydropower plant, which is nearing completion and promises to generate 78 megawatts of power for the first two phases of copper production at Kamoa-Kakula, according to Friedland. Combined, this means a projected 240 megawatt output from both plants. Further, Ivanhoe claims that the upgrading can be accomplished at a significantly reduced cost per megawatt generated compared to the upgrading of the Mwadingusha plant.
Friedland also stated that “the supply of reliable hydropower is critical to Kamoa-Kakula achieving its goal of becoming the world’s ‘greenest’ copper mine and being among the world's lowest greenhouse gas emitters per unit of copper produced.” The Inga II hydropower plant is located on the Congo river, the deepest and one of the longest rivers in the world, with large rapids and waterfalls that make it ideal for harnessing the power of water to produce sustainable energy.
Besides the environmental efficacy of the upgrades, Friedland also highlighted that the partnership promises to support local communities in the DRC. Félix Tshisekedi, president of the Democratic Republic of the Congo commented that, “Partnerships such as the one between SNEL and Ivanhoe allow us to inject additional capacity into our electrical grid and improve the living conditions of Congolese citizens by increasing their access to electricity. At the same time, the additional power that will be generated will allow Kamoa-Kakula to [benefit] its mining products in the DRC. This will create additional revenue for the country, as well as employment opportunities for our people. As the host country and as a shareholder of Kamoa Copper, the DRC sees this local value creation as a strategic imperative.”
Finally, Friedland indicated that the upgrade will be crucial to the Kamoa-Kukala project itself. According to him, the lack of sufficient power has limited the mine’s ability to fully capitalize on the site’s indicated resources of 83.7 billion pounds of copper from 1.4 billion tonnes grading at 2.7 per cent. He concluded that “We are fortunate to be operating in the DRC, which is blessed with incredible hydropower potential. Hydropower, being clean, reliable and sustainable, is the best energy solution to support our long-term development priorities as we continue to look for ways to reduce our impact on the environment, provide meaningful and long-lasting benefits to the communities in which we operate, and produce the copper the world urgently requires.”
As reported in Ivanhoe Mines’ comprehensive integrated development plan from Sept. 8, 2020, the definitive feasibility study of the project indicated that Kamoa-Kakula complex could reach production of more than 800,000 tonnes of copper a year, becoming the world’s second largest copper mine.