In May 2014, Tiger commenced copper cathode production at Kipoi. Could you provide us with an overview regarding this project history?
Tiger’s management was looking for projects in Asia, hence the company’s name Tiger, which is appropriate in Asia, and our current Chairman, who at the time was a Consultant to the Board, Neil Ferris had some contacts in DRC. They got wind of the Kipoi project he negotiated, and David Constable, who was Managing Director, came in and drove the exploration programme. Back in 2008 raising finance in DRC was challenging, especially from banks, but we could still receive certain amounts from shareholders.
Since 2007 at Kipoi Tiger conducted exploration work and prepared a feasibility study for the first stage operations. We then achieved production status in May 2011 and continued to produce successfully through 2012 and 2013. The cash generated was used to build the second stage of the project a solvent extraction and electrowinning plant (SXEW) fed from a heap leach from which we have now achieved commercial production status. Remarkably, at Kipoi, Tiger entered into production within four years of operations while most base metal mines take, on average, ten years. Tiger’s SXEW plant is the fastest ever built plant in DRC and one of the fastest worldwide. Our plant’s capacity is currently of 25000 t/y, with the intention of going up to 50,000 t/y throughout the next stage of development. Tiger has also commissioned the heap leach from the agglomerator to the stacker of the SXEW plant which is operating as expected. Our wider aim in DRC consists in assisting the country in producing more than 1 million t of copper in 2014 and in 2013 Tiger produced 41,255 t exceeding our plants capacity of 36,000 t/y.
Power related issues and amendments to the mining code remain key challenges for the mining industry in Katanga. How has the situation evolved recently and how do these issues affect Tiger?
Tiger believes that the government is going to come to a consensual position regarding amendments to the mining code. The authorities in the DRC recognise the importance of international investment in the country and once amendments to the code are agreed the environment will stabilize in terms of prospects for future growth. The real concern now, however, is a more practical issue; logistics, energy or both are a priority. Tiger is connected to the electrical grid and runs on generators, at a cost of 45 cents a kilowatt/hour compared to the 5.6 cents a kilowatt-hour from the national grid with DRC’s National Electricity Company (‘Snel’). We will be investing in the SNEL network to ensure that we can get the power we need. At Shilatembo, the switching station is being refurbished and used as a take off point for the Kipoi supply, some 27 Km south. This will lead to an increase in capacity on the line from 90 MVA to 120 MVA. Overall, the investment cost is of approximately 17 million dollars, which is feasible considering that it will increase network capacity of 25 per cent and will decrease energy losses by 20 MW. The other project currently underway is an energy efficiency project for which we have 380,000 light bulbs already being delivered that will lead to 40-80 MW power saving.
What are the challenges ahead for the National Electricity Corporation (SNEL) in DRC?
The main challenge ahead of SNEL is financing. By way of comparison, Zambia Electricity Supply Corporation (ZESCO) sells electricity at 12 cents a kilowatt-hour while Snel sells electricity at five point six. For several years, there has been little in terms of re-investments on the net national grid and SNEL therefore needs all the support necessary. The authorities in DRC acknowledge the problem and are working on it and that explains why the government is promoting on energy efficiency programmes that will lead to electricity savings in the short term.
Mining companies activities receive considerable attention in Katanga. Could you provide us with an overview regarding the social development initiatives that Tiger is currently engaged in?
In 2012, Tiger invested in a school at Kangambwa the village closest to Kipoi, serviced the local community medical needs and helped on educational assistance programmes by providing internet access and mining software into the local university. Initially at Kipoi there were 80 students being taught in two small rooms. There are now 530 students in a fully functional school with six classrooms. The Directress of the school is an unequivocally outstanding, brilliant woman and Tiger will continue to provide support. In 2013, Tiger also invested in a maternity clinic as we recognize that one of the major causes of below average age death in DRC is infant mortality. Many children die before they reach the age of five years old, usually around the age of one. There is also high maternal mortality and we are therefore devising a programme to teach midwives how to diagnose potential problems in birthing. Tiger is also investing in an agricultural program that aims to have 600 hectares of maze under cultivation in three different villages by 2015 and we are helping the local communities to establish cooperatives to manage the . By 2017, we will source 90% of our vegetables locally and we will be providing further employment opportunities to the surrounding communities with the overall intent of establishing a self-dependence culture around the project area.
What are Tiger’s vision in the mid-term?
Tiger’s vision consists in getting Kipoi into full production and develop the next phases. We are always open to new projects and if we can find add-on projects at Kipoi, we would like to expand on our resources. At Lupoto, 27 km southeast of Kipoi central, the total contained copper in the Indicated and Inferred status is of 168,000 t and this could potentially give us another three years of production extending the mine life from 11 years to 14 years. Conceptually, at Kipoi, Tiger has enough space to go up to 100, 000 t/y. However, for the time being, we are currently remaining focused on getting phase one of our SXEW fully operational whilst examining the expansion to 50,000 tpa.