Golder Associates is showcasing the full extent of its service capabilities in Africa, this time for Ivanhoe Mines’ Kamoa copper project in the DRC.
Golder Associates is showcasing the full extent of its service capabilities in Africa, thanks to its ongoing work in the African Copperbelt, this time for TSX-listed Ivanhoe Mines’ Kamoa copper project in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), writes Laura Cornish.
The Kamoa copper project is ranked as Africa’s largest highgrade copper discovery and the world’s largest undeveloped highgrade copper discovery. The project is a true reflection of Golder’s commitment to delivering world-class consulting services and its capability to deliver a single project across many disciplines through cohesive integration, particularly in the mining sector’s last untapped continent – Africa.
Kamoa is located near Kolwezi in the DRC’s Katanga province. According to Ivanhoe Mines, the project boasts 739 Mt of indicated mineral resources, containing 43.5 billion pounds of copper at a grade of 2.67%. This is in addition to another 277 Mt of inferred mineral resources containing 9.8 billion pounds of copper at 1.96%. Given the project’s significant estimated resource tonnages, it has the potential to support a very large mine and processing plant.
Golder’s involvement in the project started in 2010 when the company was appointed to provide baseline groundwater, surface water and geochemical input to Kamoa’s environmental impact study (EIS) to local DRC standards, originally undertaken by Zambia’s African Mining Consultants. “In 2012, we were appointed to develop the EIS into an ESHIA (environmental, social and health impact assessment) to comply with the International Finance Corporation’s Performance Standards, in addition to the DRC Mining Code,” states Nyundo Armitage, Golder’s senior environmental consultant in Zambia.
“Ivanhoe then asked us for support on its feasibility studies. We evaluated options for the mine’s bulk water supply from both groundwater and surface water, for example. We also studied the best locations for a tailings storage facility (TSF) and designed it, and did the geotechnical work to determine the best positions for surface infrastructure.
For the EISHA, we are conducting the air quality, soil, land capability and ecological studies; doing radiation monitoring; identifying problematic health areas; as well as doing the socio- and macro-economic studies,” Armitage continues. In total, Golder’s project work spans 23 different specialist areas.
“Golder’s commitment is to stay close to its client all the way through the project’s life cycle. From initiation and implementation, through development all the way to post closure,” Armitage highlights.
The proposed mine is situated in an impoverished remote rural area where people survive on subsistence farming and little else. Antoinette Pietersen, Golder’s senior stakeholder engagement specialist, outlines how the company has and continues to work with local people.
“There are 26 villages and many hamlets with almost 5 000 people in and around the concession area. Before our involvement, the mine had already achieved a great deal of positive interaction with the communities and implemented development projects and committees, which is really commendable.”
“We started with what we call capacity building,” Pietersen explains. “We helped people understand modern mining, using visual materials and long, patient discussions. People who know only old-style mining with huge environmental consequences will of course be concerned,” she says. “A question we were regularly asked at our meetings was: ‘in which river will you dump your tailings?’ People were astonished to hear that a dedicated tailings dam will contain the tailings. The reality of mining in Africa today is that companies need the good relations with their neighbouring communities to attain their social licence to operate. We assist our clients to do the right things to attain and maintain those relations.”
Different tiers of consultation are managed, from national government in small groups to all relevant government structures and departments, health NGOs, donors, traditional leadership, as well as in-depth consultations with every village. Two Golder teams were deployed to consult with the 26 villages, each village comprising between 200 and 250 people, with a large majority consisting of children below the age of 10.
Both Armitage and Pietersen agree that the process has been extremely successful due to Ivanhoe Mines’ commitment, support and joint cooperation. They have assisted in establishing community development committees, community liaison officers and interpreters. The mine also established a successful sustainable development programme called the Ecolivelihoods Programme, which is aimed at food security and conservation. The result is a good relationship of trust, which continues to strengthen, owing to robust stakeholder and communication engagement processes and programmes,” Pietersen notes.
She admits that one of the greatest challenges is managing expectations, in terms of temporary and permanent employment opportunities, for both the skilled and unskilled. “We have already given indication of the mine plan identified and which villages will be relocated and those that may possibly be relocated, in an unimposing and non-threatening manner.”
The tailings storage facility (TSF)
The TSF component of the Kamoa project is considered vital. Golder was appointed to revisit the scoping report previously completed by another engineering consultant. “We revisited the sites originally identified and recommended that additional sites be considered feasible. Going through the crucial process of obtaining additional information in relation to the TSF helped us identify environmental and technical/engineering constraints and benefits. We also worked closely with Antoinette’s team in actively involving communities in the site identification decision- making process, as well as all other specialist areas,” says Sifiso Dlamini, tailings design engineer.
Th e tailings dam will be a 220 Mt facility, designed to last the mine’s lifespan of 30 years. A preferred site has been identified, on a side sloping hill. The site is 5 km from the plant and 580 ha in size, including the return water facilities and additional related infrastructure. It will function initially as a containment dam and then will be self-raised once an acceptable rate of rise is achieved. A variety of storage and deposition technologies were also evaluated, including dry stacking, hydraulic deposition, paste thickening and even underground backfilling using tailings materials.
“It is essential that we adhere to international standards and particularly the DRC Mining Code in terms of the TSF’s lining component, which was originally about 50% of the estimated total TSF cost,” Dlamini explains. Golder’s extensive study and evaluation work has drastically reduced the estimated cost of the facility due to the input from its geotechnical and geochemical divisions, which have proposed an ‘engineering barrier’, in place of a ‘plastic’ lining system. This is an extremely cost-effective method that still prevents infiltration.
“Our intention is to stay involved throughout the TSF’s life, which after construction will include surveillance and monitoring. With the client’s consent, we will continue to do this until closure and post closure of the facility.”
Geotechnical elements Golder’s geotechnical contract encompasses all surface infrastructure investigations, including the TSF, process plant, roads, pipelines, conveyors and construction villages.
“We have also worked closely with the client’s principal consultant, Hatch, in terms of locating the most cost-eff ective location for the plant and evaluating potential construction aggregates, specifically earthwork materials and aggregates for concrete and road pavement layers,” says Scott Gover, geotechnical engineer.
Gover says one of the most interesting aspects of the project is the variable soil types in the area, which include hydromorphic grasslands comprising deep Kalahari sand deposits and loose, fi ne-grained soils inherent to the footwall sandstones of the N’Guba geological formation. “Our colleagues from the US have additionally assisted us with a fault hazard evaluation.”
The vital importance of integration
“Because we are involved in the Kamoa project across so many engineering and scientific disciplines, it is essential that we work as an integrated team and it is clear we are doing so successfully. We hold integration workshops to assist the team in working seamlessly and to avoid duplication of effort. What counts in our favour is our experience in doing this. What must be emphasised is our client’s continuous involvement and support. We have become an extension of the client’s team,” says Le Roux Loubser, integrated project manager for Golder.
Golder has developed an environmental and social management system, in conjunction with Ivanhoe Mines, allowing online interaction and live data sharing. “This is a leading initiative, designed specifically for this project, which helps us track and monitor stakeholder engagement in a systematic format for every single person. There are already an impressive 6 000 stakeholders on the database,” Armitage notes.
Loubser outlines the three key integration aspects:
- Excellent project integration: “We have achieved this through our ability to operate as ‘one Golder’ while making use of local and global resources to add value to the project. Our ability to communicate effectively with all stakeholders, both internal and external, is extremely strong.” And this is thanks to the diverse experience of every Golder team member. “We are guided by our company values and understand the true value of teamwork.”
- Ability to manage change and/or challenges: Golder is flexible and can handle projects of substantial size and complexity over a long period of time. “We are recognised for our ability to manage change, challenges and risks effectively.”
- Using solid project management principles: The Kamoa project is considered a large-complex project, emphasising the need for a solid principles base to ensure project success. “We use globally recognised project management guidelines, which enable us to manage challenges effectively during execution of the project.”
The Kamoa project is a leading project for Golder, which continues to drive the project forward through its integrated, ‘one Golder’ approach, despite its involvement across numerous disciplines. It will be recorded as one of the company’s most important projects.