Robert Friedland, one of mining’s best-known entrepreneurs, could not have been clearer about where the industry’s best opportunities lie when he addressed investors Tuesday in Toronto.
“There’s incredibly large potential to make money. And once more, when you go to Africa to invest, when you work in Africa, you become part of an astonishing success story,” said Mr. Friedland, the billionaire mining promoter who has turned his attention to the continent after striking it rich in Voisey’s Bay and Mongolia.
Addressing the MineAfrica event at the annual Prospectors and Developers Association conference in Toronto, Mr. Friedland described the continent as a key source of metals as global populations continue to migrate to so-called “mega” cities with populations of more than 10 million people each.
He pointed to countries such as Ethiopia, Mozambique, Tanzania, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Ghana, Zambia and Nigeria as high-economic-growth countries for the coming years, surpassing even the stellar growth seen in Latin America in recent years amid a commodities boom.
“By 2025, which is tomorrow morning in geologic time, and at the scale in which we invest in mining, 630 million people, or 14 per cent of the world’s urban population, and 8 per cent of all the people walking on this planet, will live in 37 megacities,” he said.
“As you build those cities, not only are you wildly consumptive of copper and steel and iron and molybdenum, but look at the air. If you want to clean that air, the environmental metals are copper, platinum and palladium.”
Mr. Friedland became a legend in the mining industry when he sold the Voisey’s Bay nickel deposit to Inco Ltd. for $4.3-billion.
He then went on to drive construction of the massive Mongolia copper-and-gold property, Oyu Tolgoi.
Today Mr. Friedland is driving a new venture, known as Ivanplats, which owns the high-grade Kamoa copper deposit in the Democratic Republic of Congo, along with the massive Platreef platinum, gold and copper project in South Africa. It owns the Kipushi zinc and copper asset in Congo, as well as other assets spread across Congo, South Africa, Gabon and Australia.
“Africa is definitely open for business,” Mr. Friedland said, drawing applause from a room with hundreds of investors. “And it’s even greater to make history than it is to make money.”