If there was any suggestion that Robert Friedland was still smarting at being forced out of Ivanhoe Mines by Rio Tinto, the mining magnate swept them away during his speech at Mining Indaba, talking up new vehicle Ivanplats as a company that will "revolutionise" mining in Africa.
In a typically ebullient presentation - part braggadocio and part thinly veiled swipes at his competitors - Mr Friedland talked up Ivanplats' two big African projects, the giant Platreef platinum group discovery in South Africa and the Kamoa copper project in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, which he claimed was the world's biggest undeveloped high-grade copper discovery.
Ivanplats listed on the Toronto exchange in October, raising $US305.7 million ($296.4 million) in its initial public offering and floating with a market value of about $US2.5 billion. Speaking as Ivanplats released a resource upgrade at Platreef indicating resources of 29.2 million ounces of platinum group metals grading 4.1 grams per tonne, with 771,000 tonnes of nickel and 363,000t of copper, Mr Friedland told the conference the mine could revolutionise mining in South Africa.
Amid a series of expansive commitments and thinly-veiled criticisms of his competitors, Mr Friedland promised the mine would be built and operated "without a single death", and said wages paid by the company in South Africa and the DRC would be higher than any of its peers. South Africa's platinum mines were crippled last year by a wave of industrial unrest over wages and working conditions.
Mr Friedland said South African mines, typically deep underground and heavily reliant on relatively unskilled labour to extract thin vein ore bodies, had a terrible history. He said Platreef, when built, would be more reliant on high volume mechanised processes, and the company would train its local workforce from scratch in high- tech extractive techniques.
He also hinted Ivanplats would become an integrated downstream processor of its commodities.
Mr Friedland said he wanted to mine minerals, make catalytic converters and jewellery from its platinum, and "do it right here" in South Africa.
The industrial troubles and social unrest in South Africa over the last year have made international investors reluctant to commit capital to South Africa, with the lone recent exception being a major Chinese investment in a new mine.
But Mr Friedland flagged plans to raise capital for the development from primarily Japanese sources, which already hold 10 per cent of Ivanplats shares.
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