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How the green economy will benefit copper miners

By Christophe Le Bec
Posted on Thursday, 28 November 2019 16:46

Workers at Tenke Fungurume, a copper mine in the southern Congolese province of Katanga REUTERS/Jonny Hogg

Billionaire founder of Ivanhoe Mines, Robert Friedland, sees the global effort to reduce carbon emissions as a lucrative opportunity for the mining sector.

Speaking in London this week, he reminded delegates that copper is an essential metal in electric vehicles and renewable energy systems.

  • The London Mines & Money conference gathers some 2,000 financiers and professionals from the extractive sector in the British capital.
  • The American-Canadian tycoon Robert Friedland used the four-day event, which ends 28 November, to highlight his copper megaproject in Kamoa-Kakula, DR Congo.

Friedland believes the fight against air pollution and climate change will lead to a massive explosion in demand for copper. For example, the latest electric vehicle from Tesla Motors requires no less than 163kg of copper. 

Friedland grew up in Chicago and studied at Reed College where he became friends with Apple’s founder, Steve Jobs. He became a billionaire after his company, Ivanhoe, discovered the Oyou Tolgoï copper mine in Mongolia.

He sold part of the mine to the Anglo-Australian giant, Rio Tinto.

Photovoltaics and wind power

Friedland says the manufacture of solar panels and wind turbines will increase the demand for copper by 56% by 2030.

This comes at a time when copper production is beginning to decline, due to ageing South American mines – which are currently the largest, and the launch of very few copper projects.

For this reason, Friedland believes his new DRC copper project is a very attractive investment. It’s a joint venture with the Chinese mining groups, Zijing Mining and the CITIC Metal Africa.

Revenge of the miners

After his address, Friedland called on investors to take an interest in the Kamoa-Kakula project. He says it aims to exploit the third largest copper deposit in the world. Friedland claims it could also become the second largest copper mine in the world, with 700,000 tons of copper extracted per year at its peak.

Friedland is predicting the next golden age for copper miners, thanks to environmental concerns around climate change. He says cobalt, platinum, palladium, and nickel producers are also likely to see a boom.

Bottom line: While mining companies are often considered as dirty industries, Friedland believes the time has come for the revenge of the miners.

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