27 November 2019

Why this billionaire thinks the DRC is set for a copper boom

Chile’s worst civil unrest in decades means the Democratic Republic of Congo is a more attractive proposition for mining investment, according to billionaire Robert Friedland.

While Chile, the world’s top copper producer, seeks measures to quell the social unrest that exploded last month, the election of President Felix Tshisekedi earlier this year has improved the prospects in Congo, Mr Friedland said at the Mines and Money conference in London on Monday.

Ivanhoe Mines, founded by Mr Friedland, is developing the world’s second-largest copper-mining project in Congo, with production due to start in 2021.

“There is a new sheriff in town,” said Mr Friedland, referring to Mr Tshisekedi. Chile is now a “terrible place to invest in mining, while Congo is a really great place,” he said.

Over more than two decades, the mining investor and his small team have made some of the biggest mineral discoveries in the world.

In addition to unearthing Africa’s largest copper deposit, other projects include building the Oyu Tolgoi copper-and-gold mine in Mongolia’s Gobi Desert and discovering the Voisey’s Bay nickel deposit in Canada, which he sold in 1996 for more than $US3 billion. Ivanhoe is also developing a platinum mine in South Africa.

“You have my sympathies,” said Mr Friedland, commenting on investors in Chile. The billionaire is well known for making controversial comments.

Congo also has its own issues to address. Companies mining and buying copper and cobalt from Congo must do more to fight corruption and child labor in the country, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development said earlier this month.