Platinum and copper the metals for the end of the decade – Friedland – by Lawrence Williams ( – December 2, 2013)

Robert Friedland’s presentation at MineAfrica in London avows that the supercycle is not dead and sees huge value ahead for his Ivanhoe company’s new Pt, Cu and Zn projects in South Africa and the DRC.

LONDON – There are two mining related events on in London today – Mines and Money’s first day (of three) – and MineAfrica (just today) – luckily they are not being held so far apart as to make attending some of both impossible. So, so far today I have taken in talks from Frank Holmes and John Meyer at the former event – both presenting a relatively optimistic picture for mining over the next few years – Holmes looking at what he terms the E7 countries – for the most part those with the largest populations and enormous growth potential as witnessed by China’s huge urbanisation programmes which have totally transformed the country’s economy – and the feeling that this process could be underway in the others too. Holmes also felt that gold and gold stocks have been hugely oversold and is looking for a turnaround here.

From Mines and Money a quick journey to MineAfrica and to hear Robert Friedland’s take on the industry over the next few years. Obviously Friedland was talking his Ivanhoe book with his very positive views on Africa in general and on his Platreef, Kamoa and Kipushi Projects – the first in South Africa and the next two in the Democratic Republic of Congo – in particular. As expected he was hugely positive on all three – Platreef as a game-changer for the platinum sector, Kamoa as one of THE copper projects of the future as a far higher grade option than most, if not all, other major known new copper projects and Kipushi as having huge high grade zinc mining potential, but with copper, gold and silver also.

But perhaps it was his overall view of what lies ahead in metals demand through to the end of the decade which was the most interesting part of his talk. The supercycle is alive and well he reckons.

On platinum, pollution in countries like China and moves to reduce this through a big crackdown on polluting vehicles – requiring platinum and palladium in large quantities – and fuel cell powered vehicles now under development in Japan and Korea which he sees as providing a better solution to non polluting vehicles that the electrically propelled cars and trucks, largely due to much greater range and far faster refuelling options.

He sees these uses for platinum accelerating through the end of this decade into the next, particularly if there is a fuel-cell driven vehicle revolution with each even small vehicle requiring an ounce of platinum in its power unit construction.

In the Platreef deposit in South Africa Friedland has found a huge, and importantly thick, deposit of pgm bearing material amenable to open pit mining. He also noted that the nickel, copper and gold in the deposit would possibly be sufficient to cover the mining and processing costs thus leaving the platinum group metals to effectively be mined for free! No conclusive figures were provided on this, but Friedland does have the track record of finding remarkable deposits – as witness Oyu Tolgoi, Voiseys Bay and Fort Knox.

On copper, it is not only its use in general industry which he sees as important, although the huge and continuing growth in the world’s most highly populated countries will of course lead to ever continuing growth in demand, but also new uses, as in employment as a hugely efficient anti-microbial in hospitals and other public places. Stainless steel he says is ‘loved’ by bacteria and viruses, whereas copper surfaces kill them!

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