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Robert Friedland: The revenge of the miners

As the electrification revolution continues, the demand for minerals is increasing. Goldman Sachs predicts that demand for copper will increase by 600 percent by 2030, and as Robert Friedland, chairman of Ivanhoe Mines, billionaire and mining founder, highlighted at the CRU World Copper conference earlier this year:

"In the short term, we’ve had a big rise in the price of copper. But for the medium term, copper has really become a national security issue. It’s central for what we want to do with our economy."

Key to the green transition

The mining industry finds itself in a balancing act when it comes to sustainability. On the one hand, minerals, and especially copper and nickel, are an important part of the green transition. On the other hand, mining is a reviled industry that must defend itself against accusations of preying on both natural resources and labour. Not least in the case of Ivanhoe Mines, whose mines are located in politically controversial areas. In addition, the sector has been through a long period of economic downturn, while investors were chasing digitalisation and disruption. Robert Friedland is therefore not unfamiliar with defending his projects. But he argues that mining can become a sustainability lever:

"The pressure on mining companies to meet very high ESG requirements makes it even more difficult, and more interesting, to do the job properly. So welcome to a new world […] It is possible to operate mines responsibly and in a better way. And as an industry, we have to figure out how. And that applies to all aspects, including the feasibility studies, the development, the construction, the removal of by-products and recycling," Friedland explained at a conference organized by the mining companies' organisation AME in January this year.

Robert Friedland founded the Canadian Mining Company, which later became Ivanhoe Mines, in 1993. As Chairman, he was behind the important listing of the company in 2012, which raised $ 308 million in international investment. Ivanhoe Mines runs three major mining projects in southern Africa with its partners: the Platreef project in South Africa where platinum, palladium, as well as copper and gold are to be mined, in addition to the Kipushi mine in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) which is expected to become one of the world's largest zinc producers. Last but not least, the Kamoa-Kakula mine, also in the DRC, which is considered to be the largest ever copper mine on the African continent.

A more diverse future

The charismatic billionaire Robert Friedland was inducted into the Canadian Mining Hall of Fame in 2016, and has been called "the undisputed king of junior development" by the Mining Journal. They also named him one of the industry's 20 most influential people in 2015 and 2016. However, he does not believe that the future belongs to mining magnates like himself:

"It’s not just going to be an enterprise for the old white guys from Canada. When you go to the Toronto Club, you see all those pictures of the old dead guys on the wall. It’s not going to be like that anymore. There’s going to be women in mining, and there’s going to be people of every colour, race and description,” Friedland told the Canadian publication BCBusiness.

At SKAGEN Funds' New Year's Conference 2022, Friedland will provide a new perspective on mining, electrification, ESG and investment after COVID-19. As he explained to BCBusiness:

"Now that the world has gone through this profound shock of COVID-19, we’re beginning to wonder what the world is going to look like when governments address the recovery effort. People are waking up to the fact that certain elements in the periodic table are going to be huge winners. And so begins the era of the revenge of the miners.”

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