Famous mining entrepreneur Robert Friedland says he is confident Rio Tinto can mend its troubled relationship with the Mongolian Government and turn the Oyu Tolgoi project into the world’s best copper mine.
A colourful speech to an audience in Melbourne, Mr Friedland likened the process of developing a mine to a painful birth, and expressed confidence that Rio and Mongolia would sort out their differences.
Mr Friedland played a significant role in the development of Oyu Tolgoi, with his company Ivanhoe Mines leading the process until Rio acquired just over half of Ivanhoe in a bid to get control of the mine.
Development of the second stage of Oyu Tolgoi has been delayed for more than a year on the back of multiple disputes between Rio and the Mongolian government, and just this week Rio published a new feasibility study for the $US5.4 billion expansion which found it would cost more and recover copper at slower rates than before.
Funding commitments for the expansion from a syndicate of banks expire on September 30, but despite that pressure, Mr Friedland said Oyu Tolgoi would eventually be delivered.
“I want to express great confidence in the inevitability that all parties at Oyu Tolgoi will continue with the expansion, there is a virtual certainty that the mine will be expanded,” he said.
“A truly world class mine is like a woman having a 100 kilogram baby; it is painful, it takes time.
“I believe this will ultimately become the world’s best copper and gold mine.”
In typically controversial style, Mr Friedland described those who oppose mining projects as “twisted deviants” and said some had become too detached from the supply chains that deliver common objects.
“People have forgotten where things come from, some people don’t understand you either grow it, or you mine it if you touch it or use it,” he said.
“This is an election year here in the (Victorian) state government on the 29th of November, there is an important election, please vote for the handsome intelligent people that understand where things come from.”
While speaking about the trend toward greater scrutiny of the way companies manufacture goods and source labour, Mr Friedland likened the scrutiny to a “rectal examination”.
When describing the strong demand for sulfuric acid from oxide copper mines in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Mr Friedland said those operations were “like heroin junkies”.
Since Rio took control of Oyu Tolgoi, Mr Friedland and the Ivanhoe team have focused on the pursuit of copper, zinc, platinum and other metals in the Democratic Republic of Congo and South Africa.
He said the air pollution problems in big cities was a more imminent problem than climate change, and would drive strong demand for cars and power sources that were less polluting, and by extension, minerals like platinum.
SOURCE: The Sidney Morning Herald