Robert Friedland, executive chairman of Ivanhoe Mines
“Get out there, do your job and go find minerals to feed China.” That was the message Robert Friedland had for a large and enthusiastic lunchtime audience in Vancouver on the final day of the Association for Mineral Exploration British Columbia’s (AME BC) Mineral Exploration Roundup in January.
Friedland, founder and executive chairman of Ivanhoe Mines Ltd., has certainly taken up his own gauntlet. In October 2009, Ivanhoe and Rio Tinto signed a long-term investment agreement with Mongolia for the construction and operation of the Oyu Tolgoi mining complex. Oyu Tolgoi is the world’s largest undeveloped copper-gold project. It contains an estimated 79 billion pounds of copper and 45 million ounces of gold in measured, indicated and inferred resources. Initial indications are that the current resources will support planned open pit and underground mining for 60 years. Ivanhoe has announced a 2010 construction budget of US$758 million, which will be used to begin full-scale construction of the mining complex.
Introduced by Jean Chrétien, the former Canadian prime minister, as “one of the greatest men in the mining industry,” Friedland returned the favour, recognizing the foresight Chrétien showed in nurturing Sino-Canadian relations. “Jean Chrétien is a true visionary,” Friedland said. “Years ago, he saw the emerging role of China, that one day everything would depend on that country.”
Ivanhoe and Mongolia are well-positioned to support that growth, he added. “Mongolia is like Canada. It’s big and cold and it’s full of resources that it exports to the country to the south of it, which in Mongolia’s case is China.”And China represents the future for mining, said Friedland.
“The Chinese economy is booming,” he said. “By 2020 it will pass Japan as the second largest in the world. It’s resuming its former status as a global powerhouse.”
Friedland also touted the prospects for copper: “Between 2007 and 2030, the world will consume 620 million tonnes of copper.” Much of the demand will come from car manufacturers. “China was number one in car sales in 2009,” he said. “The future of automobiles is the hybrid/electric car and there is between 150 and 250 lbs of copper in them. Lithium batteries need a lot of copper, too.” To support that demand, Friedland said the world needs a new generation of copper mines and, of course, the people to develop them.