A groundbreaking study has confirmed that Kamoa-Kakula, a copper mine in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), is the world’s lowest carbon-emitting major copper mine. This achievement is primarily due to the mine’s high-grade ore and the DRC grid’s exceptionally clean power generation.
Exceptionally High-Grade Ore
Kamoa-Kakula boasts incredibly high-grade ore bodies, with an average copper grade of 5.5%. This is approximately ten times higher than the estimated global average copper head grade of 0.6%. The superior quality of the ore allows for more efficient copper extraction, significantly reducing the mine’s carbon emissions.
Clean Power Generation
The DRC grid, which supplies power to Kamoa-Kakula, is renowned for its environmental friendliness. According to the US Energy Information Administration, 99.5% of the grid’s power is generated from hydroelectricity. The mine also collaborates with the DRC state utility to invest in hydropower generation projects. Notably, Kamoa Copper has completed the 78 MW Mwadingusha hydroelectric facility and is currently working on Turbine #5 of the Inga II dam. These initiatives further reduce the mine’s carbon footprint.
Reducing GHG Emissions
The completion of the direct-to-blister copper smelter, part of Kamoa-Kakula’s ongoing Phase 3 expansion, plays a crucial role in reducing the mine’s greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. The smelter, expected to be one of the largest in the world and the largest in Africa, will have a nameplate production capacity of 500,000 tonnes per annum of 99+%-pure blister copper anodes.
A comprehensive assessment indicates that the smelter will have one of the lowest GHG emission intensities globally, ranking fourth lowest out of approximately 100 copper smelters analyzed. This achievement is due to its incorporation of advanced technologies and compliance with the International Finance Corporation’s rigorous emissions standards.
The Phase 3 expansion also includes the refurbishment of Turbine #5 at the Inga II hydroelectric facility. This upgrade will provide an additional 178 megawatts of clean hydroelectric power to the national grid, meeting the electricity requirements of the expanded concentrator and smelter.
Ongoing Commitment to Decarbonization
Kamoa-Kakula’s dedication to decarbonization extends beyond the present achievements. The focus remains on ongoing efforts to further reduce GHG emissions. To accomplish this, the mine is collaborating with its offtake partners to identify low-emission copper refineries and promote low carbon-intensive logistics routes, whenever commercially feasible.
In line with their proactive response to climate change, Ivanhoe Mines, the company managing Kamoa-Kakula, has engaged BDO, a globally recognized advisory firm, to develop a long-term decarbonization strategy and net-zero roadmap.
Positive Response and Market Performance
The news of Kamoa-Kakula’s status as the world’s lowest carbon-emitting major copper mine has been met with enthusiasm. Shares of Ivanhoe Mines, the company behind the mine, experienced a 3.3% increase following the announcement. With a current market capitalization of C$12.7 billion ($9.2 billion), Ivanhoe Mines continues to make significant strides in sustainable mining practices.
Robert Friedland, executive co-chair of Ivanhoe Mines, emphasizes the importance of sustainable primary copper production in addressing global warming and meeting the demand for copper in the energy transition. He believes that Kamoa-Kakula sets an example for the mining industry by demonstrating that sustainable practices can be achieved without compromising environmental goals.
As the world increasingly focuses on reducing carbon emissions, Kamoa-Kakula stands as a beacon of hope, proving that responsible mining is both possible and necessary for a greener future.