[Ivanhoe Mines] Despite commodity slump, Canadian firm seeks to launch major copper project in DR Congo (Mail and Guardian Afric – October 21, 2015)

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“Even if China is running out of steam or slowing down today, other countries are still asking for copper.”

COPPER prices have fallen 20% in the past 12 months, but Canada’s Ivanhoe Mines is taking the long view as it invests in a new giant deposit in the Democratic Republic of Congo, eyeing a future deficit in the market and rising global demand.

The discovery at Kamoa in the southeast of the vast mineral-rich country has been presented as one of the biggest finds in copper mining in many years, though DR Congo is already Africa’s top copper producer and one of the world leaders.

“We think we can begin production at the end of 2018,” Louis Watum, the head of Ivanhoe DRC, told a recent mining conference in Kinshasa.

But in the commodities market, mining companies have been struck by a sharp fall in prices, affected by the economic slowdown in top consumer China. Swiss mining giant Glencore, with a mountain of $30 billion in debt, recently suspended production for 18 months in one of DR Congo’s biggest copper mines.

Watum, however, believes conditions should favour the launch of the Kamoa mine, which lies about 25 kilometres west of the major mining town of Kolwezi in the Katanga copper belt.

“Even if China is running out of steam or slowing down today, other countries are still asking for copper. So in the two or three years (to come) we can easily foresee a deficit of copper on the market just as we go into production,” Watum said.

Ivanhoe Mines estimates that the deposit, found in 2007, contains the equivalent of at least 45 million tonnes of pure copper. The company aims to extract 300,000 tonnes per year once production reaches a peak.

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