China’s Zijin Mining Group and Ivanhoe Mines have approved a $769m investment in a direct-to-blister copper smelter for the Kamoa-Kakula copper project in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

Expected to be the largest of its kind in Africa, the 500,000 tonnes per annum (tpa) smelter is planned to be built adjacent to the Kamoa-Kakula’s Phase 1 and Phase 2 concentrator plants.

The Kamoa-Kakula project is a joint venture (JV) between Zijin Mining Group (39.6%), Ivanhoe Mines (39.6%), Crystal River Global (0.8%) and the Government of the DRC (20%).

The new smelter will be equipped to process the majority of the copper concentrate produced by Kamoa-Kakula’s Phase 1, Phase 2, and Phase 3 concentrators.

Reuters reported that the smelter is expected to help reduce the partners’ dependence on third-party smelters to process their ore and make blister, a partially purified form of copper.

The Kamoa-Kamula JV will use its own cash flows to fund the expenditures, $699m of which will be used for construction of the smelter, reported the news agency citing Zijin.

Last week, China Nerin Engineering secured a contract to build the Kamoa-Kamula direct-to-blister plant, which is expected to take three years to complete.

Kamoa-Kamula’s first phase is expected to produce around 200,000tpa of copper. It was commissioned in May 2021.

The production is expected to increase to 400,000tpa in the Phase 2 expansion, which is due to complete in the second quarter of 2022.

The Kamoa-Kakula copper mining complex is expected to have a peak production capacity of more than 800,000tpa.