Ivanhoe locks down employees in DRC

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Ivanhoe Mines Ltd. [IVN-TSX; IVPAF-OTC] said it has adopted rigorous measures to protect the health of employees, contractors and communities while ensuring business continuity at its huge Kamoa-Kakula Copper Project in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

It said the announcement is a response to the fast-evolving impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

In response to government-imposed travel restrictions and emergency protocols being introduced worldwide, Ivanhoe said strict quarantine and lock-down procedures have been implemented at all three of the company’s projects – Kamoa-Kakula, Platreef and Kipushi – to prevent the virus from spreading to the mine sites. To date, no COVID-19 cases have been discovered, the company said in a press release.

Kamoa-Kakula is one of three projects that the company is advancing in Southern Africa. The others include mine development at the Platreef platinum-palladium-gold-nickel copper discovery on the Northern Limb of South Africa’s Bushveld Complex. The company is also developing the high-grade Kipushi zinc-copper-silver-germanium mine in the DRC.

At Kamoa-Kakula, the mine site has been locked down and all key personnel remain on site, except for the supply of food and critical equipment under strict delivery protocols. A total of 881 employees, who were previously based in surrounding communities and Kolwezi, have been moved to permanent mine site accommodation.

Up to 250 additional employees will be moved to the mine site once accommodations have been expanded and subject to appropriate and stringent quarantine protocols. At present, a total of 3,535 employees and contractors are based at the mine site, which ensures operational continuity and minimizes the impact on the development schedule.

Platreef, meanwhile, has temporarily suspended its shaft-sinking operations until at least April 16, 2020, in compliance with the 21-day country-wide lock-down imposed by the South African Government effective March 26. The project is maintaining a small workforce to conduct care and maintenance activities in order to have the operations ready for when project development resumes.

Kipushi has also suspended operations in order to reduce the risk to the workforce and local communities. The project is maintaining a small workforce to conduct care and maintenance activities, and to maintain pumping operations.

On Friday, Ivanhoe shares eased 2.9% or $0.07 to $2.30. The shares are currently trading in a 52-week range of $1.80 and $4.54.

Ivanhoe is led by Singapore-based mine financier Robert Friedland, who holds a 17% interest in the company. CITIC Metal Co. Ltd., a subsidiary of the Chinese state-owned CITIC Group, recently agreed to invest an additional $612 million in Ivanhoe at $3.98 a share, raising its stake in Ivanhoe to 29.9% from just under 20%.

Ivanhoe recently said the Kamoa-Kakula project is on track to start production in the third quarter of 2021.

The forecast is among the highlights of the company’s 2019 full year results, which also contain a review of mine construction progress and exploration activities.

The Kamoa-Kakula Copper Project is a joint venture between Ivanhoe Mines (39.6%), China’s Zijin Mining Group (39.6%), Crystal River Global Ltd. (0.8%), and the DRC government (20%). It already ranks among the world’s biggest copper mines, with peak annual production expected to exceed 700,000 tonnes.

The Kamoa Deposit – originally discovered by Ivanhoe Mines’ geologists in 2008 – is one of two very large, near-surface, flat-lying, stratiform copper deposits discovered on a 400 km2 mining license. The other major deposit – Kakula is being fast-tracked to commercial production, with the initial 3.8 million-tonne-per-annum mining operation scheduled to produce first concentrate in the third quarter of 2021.

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