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Robert Friedland, founder of Ivanhoe Mines Ltd., speaks at the Melbourne Mining Club in Melbourne, Australia, in this file photo.

Carla Gottgens/Bloomberg

Results from drilling at a copper deposit in the Democratic Republic of Congo being explored by Vancouver-based Ivanhoe Mines Ltd. show what may prove to be the most significant discovery of the metal in Africa, the company said.

The find at Kakula, in the southern portion of Ivanhoe's Kamoa project, is "enormous," Ivanhoe Mines DRC Managing Director Louis Watum said at a conference in the capital, Kinshasa. Discussions are under way on how to adjust the development strategy to allocate sufficient funds to bring the new discovery into production as soon as possible, he said in an interview afterward.

"Earlier discoveries already have established Kamoa as the world's largest, undeveloped, high-grade copper discovery," chief executive officer Robert Friedland said in a separate statement. Kakula "could prove to be Africa's most significant copper discovery," he said.

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Under the current plans, the original Kamoa discovery would move to production in the final quarter of 2018. Ivanhoe still has to finalize the terms under which it will increase the government's stake in the project from 5 to 20 per cent.

Congo last year blocked the sale by Ivanhoe of 49.5 per cent in the Kamoa project to China's Zijin Mining. The government lifted its objection in September, in return for an additional 15 per cent in the local operating company Kamoa Copper SA.

Zijin completed the acquisition in December, although terms for the increase in the state's participation still haven't been agreed. Negotiations are ongoing and a positive outcome is expected soon, Watum said.

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