Ivanhoe Mines has reported a significantly increased mineral resource estimate, in both measured and indicated resources, at the Kipushi zinc-copper-silver-germanium mine in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

The increase in resources is based on an independently-prepared resource estimate.

The project’s measured and indicated zinc-rich resources have been raised by 16%, from 10.2 million tonnes to 11.8 million tonnes, while its measured and indicated copper-rich resources have climbed 40% from 1.6 million tonnes to 2.3 million tonnes.

“With continued exploration success, we are confident Kipushi could remain in production for at least several more decades.”

With the increase, Kipushi now contains 9.2 billion pounds of zinc, 8.7 million ounces of silver and 24.4 million ounces of germanium.

Ivanhoe noted that the new estimate was prepared by South African firm MSA Group and includes the second phase of underground drilling at Kipushi that was completed last year.

The drilling programme included 58 holes, with 31 holes in the Southern Zinc and Big Zinc, five holes in the Nord Riche and 14 holes in the Série Récurrente.

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The company will use the updated mineral resource in the preparation of the definitive feasibility study (DFS) for the Kipushi project, which is anticipated to be finalised later this year or early next year.

Ivanhoe Mines executive chairman Robert Friedland said: “We have always believed that Kipushi held the potential to host significantly more high-grade zinc, copper, silver and germanium resources than were initially reported in the mineral inventory when we acquired our 68% interest in the mine in 2011.

“With continued exploration success, we are confident Kipushi could remain in production for at least several more decades.

“While our initial mine plan focuses on mining Kipushi’s exceptionally high-grade Big Zinc Deposit, the adjacent Fault Splay and Southern Zinc zones are compelling, near-term development targets as they have thick, zinc-rich mineralization zones grading up to 45% zinc.

Friedland also noted that the copper-rich zones offer potential to expand and diversify the mine plan upon commencement of production.

Located around 30km southwest of Lubumbashi, the mine is operated by Kipushi Corporation (KICO), a joint venture between Ivanhoe Mines (68%) and DRC’s state-owned mining firm Gécamines (32%).

The Kipushi mine was placed under care and maintenance in 1993 and continues in that state to date, with Ivanhoe working on restarting operations at the site.

As per a pre-feasibility study, the mine has an estimated annual production of an average of 381,000t of zinc concentrate over an initial mine life of 11 years.

Last month, Ivanhoe reached a $560m strategic cooperation and investment agreement that will allow Chinese firm CITIC Metal to acquire a 19.9% stake in the company.