Friedland: Metals Mean Health & Quality of Life for Asia

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Friedland: Metals Mean Health & Quality of Life for Asia

By Laurence Read of


Robert Friedland, of Ivanhoe mines, is the man who makes Miley Cirus look like the awkward shy girl at the prom. A keynote speaker anywhere he goes Friedland’s focus at the Tuesday session of Mines & Money 2015 was how the PGM group of metals (to be produced from Ivanhoe in South Africa) and copper (to be produced by Ivanhoe in the DRC) will be underpinning life quality, not just growth, in Asia and around the world.


A new story from a man who once opened a presentation in Kalgoorlie with a graph tracking western combined GDP compared to China, from a few thousand years BC, to the present day and into the future (cant quite remember the timescale but probably did cut off before the dying of the sun).


So Robert Friedland started his presentation with the news of the day: a welcome to the Chairman of Zijin, present in the room, as Ivanhoe’s new strategic investor for PGMs.  It is not the first time Zijin has tried to enter the Bushveld complex and we suspect they will have more success with Ivanhoe than they did with Ridge Mining.


With pleasantries now complete the gloves come off, especially where the western press are concerned, especially in respect of the global economic writers who are consigned to a particular circle of hell by the Ivanhoe Chairman. Friedland tells us His story has nothing to do with anything you read in the papers. “We are in the mining industry and don’t care what metals prices are today, but care about where they will be in three, four or five years”. Now we hit a classic ‘Bob’ presentation mechanism and focus on a counter intuitive fact that; London last experienced the worst air pollution ever, and then Paris followed suit.


The message is clear: It is not just Asia which should be condemned for excess population, a message we are sure is wisely made for  the benefit of at least his newest investor. But we are in Asia, and Friedland states the undeniable fact that air pollution is a curse for the people of Beijing and Hong Kong, who’s lives quality of life is heavily effected by air quality. As a hanger Friedland then states, categorically, that dirty air has nothing to do with global warming…you can almost feel the writ in the air if you were to suggest he meant otherwise.


So the necessary crusade for quality of life, referenced in the recent party speech by Chinese Premier Li Keqiang’s, will be led within the automotive industry.

Pollution and its prevention is, Robert says, largely car related and the solution will be linked to the future of car manufacturing. The inevitabille march of history means that all the possible options for future car development will lead to a voracious consumption of platinum, even post the use of catalytic convertors. Key facts to support the theory:


“60M cars to be produced in PRC, if 10% have fuel cells that eats all of the worlds platinum supply.”


“The full might of Japanese financial institutions behind hydrogen fuel cell cars”


But its not just cars and we should be terrified at this point for the safety of our precious platinum. In Korea captive power devices  are feeding the huge servers needed to support a nation of Starcraft players and these, yes they are, are being fed by platinum based fuel cells.


Also New high speed trains are being built in Japan built with metals Friedland; “Wont tell us about”, but we shall take a flying guess that they might involve the PGM basket.


From a train we go to a picture of Bob’s grandson and analyze through electronic posted notes how much platinum he will need to purchase from his grandfather over the course of his life. And I bet he doesn’t even get a long-term fixed price from Ivanhoe.


So onto copper we go and we learn that its new home will be the DRC, Katanga province. This will be the place that holds the solution to cleaning the air in China and India.  The materials future holds nothing so mundane or reactionary telecommunications industry


Copper also kill mutating superbugs and the WHO (we are told) recommend that it should be installed in all hospitals, but don’t stop there in the eradication of germs, because if you value your loved ones safety immediately go buy sheets of it every work top in the kitchen.


Copper also in phones, tablets, wind farms… ‘Two massive oceans of metal demand’ Friedland believes.


So for all the fun, fun, fun of a Robert Friedland lecture we are then reminded of the list of very serious projects he has been involved in. We also see his vision in terms of metals extraction, one that is focused on highly mechanized production with small, skilled but local work forces (94% local in Mongolia) in the Bushveld and the DRC. “No one will lift anything heavier than a pencil” Friedland promises of his new mines, a sea change in regions where fatalities are part of normal mining practice.


And it does sound like a plausible future and one that recognizes that large scale mining outside of the common practices of Australia has to start looking different.


Then something interesting happened, something that shows a change in the world: Robert Friedland invited Mr Chen, the Chairman of Zijin Mining to come up and say a few words. Wow. With due respect to Robert Friedlands usual real estate as the speaker of the conference this was something very interesting. Zijin have not always been known as very public facing in their forays outside of the PRC but Mr Chen began a very interesting explanation behind the Ivanhoe expansion in relation to improving the group-wide 0.3% average copper grade.


Unfortunatly, love Mines & Money that we do, in a decision of undeniable inadvisability, as we hung on Mr Chen’s next words, the hovering conference moderator tapped his watch and cut of the head of one of the worlds most important mining companies so we could go and eat warm sushi and start the next session on time.  Hmm.


Anyway, interesting and hopeful in terms of a peek of a different kind of world .

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