Back of the class for Friedland after shaky history recall

Robert Friedland, president & CEO, Ivanhoe Mines

MINING supremo, Robert Friedland, was on top oratorical form during his talk to the Mining Indaba in Cape Town but, sadly, a few factual errors crept into his presentation which referred to, amongst others, former president Nelson Mandela and former Anglo American Platinum chairman Barry Davison.

Factual errors are, of course, something that Friedland constantly accuses the media of committing. It’s why he dislikes the media and he has had well publicised run-ins with publications such as Bloomberg and Toronto’s Globe and Mail.

Friedland started his presentation invoking the spirit of Madiba who, according to the slide put up, was released from the ‘Victor Vestor’ prison – which is actually named the Victor Verster prison.

Okay, so Friedland is a globe-trotting billionaire entrepreneur and you can’t expect him to know such minor details, but surely his extensive team on the ground in South Africa – on which he heaped effusive praise – would have provided the correct information for his presentation to a South African audience which would immediately spot the error?

Then he dived into a bit of platinum mining corporate history reflecting on the fact that his company, Ivanhoe, was the first company to get new order platinum mineral rights in the country after the ANC took over and he did it in the face of opposition from local industry heavyweights such as Barry Davison.

According to Friedland, Davison told him: “Mr Friedland, you will mine that platinum over my dead body.”

Now, as anyone who has ever dealt with Davison will attest, that has the absolute ring of truth. Davison is the man who – when a number of juniors starting muscling their way into the platinum sector which until then had been dominated by Anglo American Platinum – declared: “There will be blood in the streets … and it won’t be mine!”

But the rest of Friedland’s account was incorrect. He said that when he first came to South Africa “… mineral tenements for platinum were held by one company”.

He did not name that company, but he probably meant Anglo American Platinum which did control the bulk of the country’s platinum mineral rights, but there were three other large mining companies: Impala Platinum, Lonmin and Northam – as well as various juniors holding platinum mining and exploration rights.

Friedland then glibly declared: “Barry Davison, who ran JCI which became Anglo …”.

Actually, Davison ran Anglo’s platinum operations which were held through JCI which was controlled by Anglo American Corporation. The man running JCI in those days was chairman, Pat Retief. Davison became chairman of Anglo American Platinum after Anglo split its platinum assets out of JCI in 1995 when it decided to use JCI as its first attempt at black economic empowerment. Anglo American itself was formed in 1917 and was completely separate from JCI which had been created by Barney Barnato in 1889. Anglo subsequently bought control of JCI.

But these are just all boring historical facts, so maybe Friedland was taking a leaf from the book of the journalists he so disliked and opted to “… not let the facts get in the way of a good story”. There could be worse to come. Friedland added: “We have been through a lot of interesting stories. When the movie is made it will be a five-year series on Netflix on what it took to get here”.


  1. Oh dear, what a load of cobblers Mr. Friedland! I wonder whether your confused memory recalls what you actually offered? Perhaps I’ll tell Mr. Ryan one day.
    Correct Brendan, all boring history.
    I shall surely be giving the movie a miss.

  2. Hi Brendan, I thought I would let it pass but your memory and tendency to present fiction as fact, is no better than Friedland’s so why should you get away with it? Not good for an allegedly respected journalist. You should really practice what you preach!
    You attribute Barry Davison with the statement (contained within inverted commas)…”There will be blood in the streets…and it won’t be mine!”.
    Please let us know where you obtained that quotation and also please vouch for its accuracy.

  3. David McKay, this is for you. As you are the publisher of Miningmix and therefore ultimately responsible for the content of the articles that appear in your publication, I would very much appreciate your response to the questions I posed to Brendan Ryan in “Observer” above. Thank you.

    • Hi Observer

      I asked Brendan for a response at the time of your comment. He declined, but he’s sure Barry Davison made this remark at a press gathering.



  4. Hi David, I’m not surprised he declined to respond. He is simply unable to! Either publish the facts as I have requested or publish an apology. Be careful what you publish from that source (Ryan).

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