‘Seventy is the new 20’
LONG a staunch supporter of mining in Africa, Robert Friedland last year doubled down on his predictions for the future of mining on the continent; on the size of the new copper resources his group is finding in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC); and even on platinum group metals (PGMs) in South Africa. He also did something no other international mining entrepreneur has been prepared to do in recent years which was put his head on the block voicing major support for the future of South Africa.
That was at the inaugural London Indaba held in June by Resources 4 Africa. Friedland told delegates there was “little to fear” in South Africa, adding “we are very bullish on the South African mining history”. Let’s hope he is right – although those comments were obviously aimed in part at buttering up the ruling ANC elite. South African mines minister Gwede Mantashe must have fallen off his chair after the years of abuse he has been getting from South African mining executives.
But it was Friedland’s comments on a new PGM discovery that really raised eyebrows in South Africa’s mining sector, which has yet to accept that his Platreef Project will be a success, even though it is due to start commercial production in the third quarter of 2024. Friedland said his group had found a huge “gravity anomaly” four miles long and three miles wide it was calling the Mokopane Feeder. “We think it is the source of the Bushveld Complex,” he commented. Some South African geologists simply do not buy this and reckon it is part of Friedland’s well-known “showmanship” style. But Friedland has delivered time and again on his claims over the past 20 years. Again, let’s hope he’s right!
LIFE OF ROBERT
He’s the world’s most famous and controversial mining entrepreneur who is showing no signs of slowing down as he gets into his 70s, although there are signs he could be mellowing a bit. Friedland hates the media and formerly never spoke to the press, but over the past year he has given interviews. The major developments by his group over the decades include Voisey’s Bay in Canada, Oyu Tolgoi in Mongolia, Kamoa-Kakula in the DRC, and the Platreef Project in South Africa. He holds a BA in political science from Reed College in Oregon, United States, after which he went to study Sanskrit and Buddhism in India.