Ivanhoe’s Friedland at hyperbolic best as he styles Congo answer to world’s metal supply crisis

Robert Friedland, founder and executive co-chairman of Ivanhoe Mines

IVANHOE Mines executive co-chairman Robert Friedland has delivered his strongest backing yet for mining in Africa declaring the continent’s mineral resources to be crucial for the global energy transition.

Friedland told delegates at the Mining Indaba that Africa would “make or break” the future evolution of the human species.

In order to maintain 3% GDP growth, about $700bn in copper mining investment was needed over the next 22 years to produce 700 million tons (Mt), matching all copper mined to date.

“Renewable technology is absurdly copper intensive. To generate energy with wind or solar you are going to use between seven times and 37 times more copper per unit of electrical energy than conventional energy. The whole thing depends on copper,” he said.

A copper shortage – such as could happen in Peru owing to the current bout of political unrest – could derail supply. “Average people in Peru who do not believe they are getting a fair deal from Peruvian society are disrupting copper production in the second largest copper producer in the world.

“We need a way to work this out because if Peru melts down that will affect our attempts to keep the lights on globally.”

South Africa and the Democratic Republic of Congo were the two critical mining countries on the continent he said adding: “Africa is the place to go mining. I can’t go mining in Russia; I can’t go mining in Ukraine.

“I can’t go mining anywhere it rains more than it evaporates like in Brazil because if it rains too much you cannot guarantee the integrity of tailings dams.

“Five years ago, speaking to an audience, I said I would rather go mining in the Congo than in Chile and I got a lot of nasty comments over that. People did not understand but today they are beginning to understand.

“The greatest place to go mining is the Democratic Republic of Congo. It has the world’s richest endowment of copper metal and other metals – lithium, iron, cobalt – you name it and the Congo has it.”

Mining house ethics

Friedland then slammed a major mining group – which he declined to name –  but said “used to pay for these lanyards around your neck”, referring entrance passes conference delegates wear. According to Friedland this company had once declared that it would be unethical to go mining in the Congo.

“The Congo is the best place in the world to go mining. I think the most ethical thing you can do is go mining in the Congo in partnership with the Congolese people.

“We need to reinvent mining and not do it the way it was done by that major mining corporation for the last 100 years. That company has a dirty history going back to the exploitation of people by race. We are beyond that now.”

“If you are a mining company that is too brain dead to understand that you should be shot in the head and put out of business.”

‘Sleepy Joe Biden’

He put up a photo of South African president Cyril Ramaphosa taken during his recent meeting with US president Joe Biden and posed the question: “Why is sleepy Joe Biden inviting Cyril Ramaphosa to his office?”

“It’s because the Americans are beginning to realise that South Africa is the leading nation in Africa and its role is critical in unlocking these metals. Biden is finally – he should have done it 30 years ago – waking up to how critically important Africa is.

“Copper will soon be put on the United States critical minerals list and, at long last, the Americans are waking up to understand the central importance of copper metal.”