Ivanhoe Mines ships first copper concentrate by rail to Angola

Ivanhoe Mines has announced that the first shipment of copper concentrate from the Kamoa-Kakula Copper Complex has arrived by rail at the Atlantic Ocean port of Lobito, in Angola.

The first shipment is a part of the trial tonnage under the memorandum of understanding (MOU) signed between Lobito Atlantic International SARL (LAI) and Kamoa Copper S.A. on 18 August 2023.

The rail line, linking the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) Copperbelt to the port of Lobito in Angola, is known as the “Lobito Atlantic Railway Corridor” or “Lobito Corridor”. The rail line extends 1289 km east, from the port of Lobito to the Angola-DRC border town of Luau. The line then extends a further 450 km east into the DRC, on the Société Nationale des Chemins de fer du Congo (SNCC) rail network, to Kolwezi.

The previously announced trial shipment is for the transportation of up to 10 000 t of copper concentrate from Kamoa-Kakula’s Phase 1 and 2 concentrators, along the Lobito Corridor. Information will be gathered from the trial shipment on greenhouse gas (GHG) savings, transit times, operating costs and other factors.

An initial shipment of approximately 1110 t of Kamoa-Kakula’s copper concentrate was loaded on rail wagons at the Impala Terminals warehouse in Kolwezi and departed west along the Lobito Corridor on 23 December 2023. The shipment arrived at the port of Lobito 8 days later on 31 December 2023.

Currently, Kamoa-Kakula trucks its copper concentrates by road across sub-Saharan Africa to the ports of Durban in South Africa and Dar es Salaam in Tanzania, as well as Beira in Mozambique and Walvis Bay in Namibia. In 2023, approximately 90% of Kamoa-Kakula’s concentrates were shipped to international customers from the ports of Durban and Dar es Salaam, where an average round-trip takes between approximately 40 and 50 days. The distance from Kamoa-Kakula to the port of Lobito is approximately half that compared with the port of Durban, and transportation by rail is both quicker and significantly less energy-intensive.

Once fully active, the Lobito Atlantic Railway Corridor is expected to significantly improve the logistics costs and reduce the Scope 3 emissions carbon footprint of Kamoa-Kakula copper exports. The development of Ivanhoe’s current and future copper discoveries within the Western Foreland basin will also greatly benefit from the Lobito Corridor.

Ivanhoe Mines’ Founder and Executive Co-Chairman, Robert Friedland commented:

“Our first trial shipment is an important milestone on the path to creating a new supply chain linking the Central African Copperbelt to world markets. Establishing a reliable, modern rail link to the port of Lobito in Angola will have transformational benefits for the people of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Angola, and Zambia. Steel wheels going downhill on steel rails, from over 3000 ft elevation at Kamoa-Kakula down to sea level at Lobito, will lower the cost and carbon footprint associated with producing and exporting our 99.7% copper blister anodes across the Copperbelt. Further improvements are possible through the use of technology, such as battery-electric locomotives recently launched by Wabtec Corporation of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, which are capable of generating electricity as they go downhill.”

“Lower logistical costs unlocked by the Lobito Corridor together with our hydro-electric development projects in the DRC, with over 98% of electricity in the country already being generated by cheap, green hydropower, equate to lower cut-off grades and increase the amount of economically recoverable copper in the region. This infrastructure investment is even more important for projects like the Western Foreland, following the recent high-grade and open-ended Kitoko copper discovery and our Makoko-Kiala Mineral Resources, as we significantly increase exploration and development activities across this vast copper basin in search of our next world-class copper discovery. The world desperately needs the ultra-green copper metal that Ivanhoe Mines produces in the DRC.”

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