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DR Congo copper mine secures US$200 million loan
Kamoa-Kakula expansion will increase annual production to 600,000 tonnes
Michael Marray 21 Feb 2024

Rawbank, the biggest commercial bank in the Democratic Republic of Congo, has arranged a US$200 million loan for the further expansion of the Kamoa-Kakula Copper Complex.

FirstBank DRC SA and Absa Bank provided funding alongside Rawbank. Norton Rose Fulbright advised Kamoa Copper.

The funds will contribute towards the development of phase three of the project, which will increase the mine’s annual production to a ten-year average of 600,000 tonnes of copper and generate an additional 178 megawatts of hydroelectric power for the national grid.

The project was initially developed by Vancouver-based Ivanhoe Mines. In 2015, Zijin Mining of China acquired a 49.5% interest in Kamoa Holding Limited from Ivanhoe Mines, thereby indirectly holding a 39.6% equity interest in the Kamoa-Kakula project. Zijin Mining also holds a 13.59% interest in Ivanhoe Mines, making it the second-largest shareholder of the Canadian mining company.

The Kamoa-Kakula Copper Mine is an ultra-high-grade copper mining complex located near Kolwezi, on the Katanga copper-cobalt belt, in the northeastern part of the Central African Copper Belt, which spans southern DRC and northern Zambia.

Exploration activities at Kamoa North and Kamoa Far North have shown significant potential for adding reserves. Upon reaching a planned processing capacity of 19.2 million tonnes per year, the project will become the world’s second-largest copper mine, with an annual copper production of more than 800,000 tonnes.

According to the company, the mine will have the lowest greenhouse gas emission per unit of metal produced as a result of the hydroelectric power source. And because of its small surface footprint, it has a favourable environmental footprint compared to any other tier-one copper mine worldwide.

China rail investments

China has also been investing heavily in Central Africa’s rail and port infrastructure, with the aim of increasing the efficiency of its imports from the region.

In the last quarter of 2023, 10,000 tonnes of copper concentrate extracted by Ivanhoe Mines was transported through the Lobito Corridor (Benguela). Ivanhoe Mines has signed a memorandum of understanding with the Lobito Atlantic Railway (LAR) consortium, which manages the railway line of the Lobito Corridor, to transport the ore.

Transporting copper via the railway line of the Lobito Corridor, which connects the DRC and the Port of Lobito over a distance of 1,739 kilometres, offers a faster alternative that significantly shortens travel days.

Ivanhoe Mines has been transporting ore by road to the ports of Durban, Walvis Bay (Namibia), Beira (Mozambique), and Dar es Salaam (Tanzania).

Infrastructure improvement

The 30-year concession for the Lobito Corridor was granted to the Lobito Atlantic Railway (LAR) consortium in July 2023.

LAR is owned by Trafigura (49.5%), Mota-Engil (49.5%), and Vecturis SA (1%). It is responsible for the transportation of heavy loads and the maintenance of the Benguela Railway (CFB). Portugal based Mota-Engil is 32.4% owned by China Communications Construction Company (CCCC).

Under the concession contract, the consortium committed to investing €455 million (US$490 million) in Angola, and another €100 million in the DRC,  to enhance the capacity and security of the Lobito Corridor infrastructure, as well as to purchasing 35 locomotives and 1,500 carriages.

The Lobito Railway Corridor extends through almost 1,300km across Angola, passing through the provinces of Benguela, Huambo, Bie, and Moxico. It continues into the DRC to Kolwezi, Zambia, covering a distance of 400km. The corridor is also linked to the extensive railway network managed by the National Railway Society of Congo.

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