Katanga Mining Expanding Production at Kamoto Copper
Katanga is currently forecasting production of 285,000 metric tons per year (mt/y) of copper beginning in 2019 and continuing through 2020 and 2021. Cobalt production is forecast at 26,000 mt in 2019, 32,000 mt in 2020, and 38,000 mt in 2021.
“We are very pleased to have entered into the final phase of the commissioning of the WOL processing plant project after three years of hard work,” Katanga CEO Johnny Blizzard said. “Following the commissioning of Phase 1 last year, and the commissioning of Phase 2, we are already seeing the benefits of improved recoveries and more predictable plant performance and are looking forward to increasing production.”
The export of cobalt hydroxide is currently suspended due to the levels of uranium contained in the product. While a long-term technical solution in the form of constructing an ion exchange system is being reviewed, the company intends to work with Gécamines (25% owner of the project) to look at various alternative interim solutions, both operational and regulatory, to recommence exports.
Separately, good progress is being made on the construction of a cobalt debottlenecking project, which comprises three new filter presses and an MgO reagent plant within the existing cobalt circuit and construction of two cobalt hydroxide dryers. Katanga expects to have both upgrades in full production by the end of the first quarter of 2019. This will align cobalt processing capacity with the life-of-mine cobalt production plan of 30,000 mt/y on average and 40,000 mt/y at maximum capacity.
Good progress is also being made on a sulphuric acid and sulphur dioxide plant. The earthworks for the plant have been completed, civil works have commenced, and orders for major long-lead items are beginning to arrive on site. Following a detailed process review, commissioning of the acid plant is expected toward the latter part of the fourth quarter of 2019, with first acid production in the first quarter of 2020.