Billionaire Robert Friedland Plans World's No. 2 Copper Mine

(Bloomberg) -- Billionaire investor Robert Friedland said the copper deposit Ivanhoe Mines Ltd. is developing in the Democratic Republic of Congo has the potential to become the world’s No. 2 mine for the metal.

“Kamoa-Kakula will become the world’s second-largest copper mine with peak annual production of more than 700,000 tons of copper metal,” Ivanhoe founder Friedland said Wednesday at a mining conference in Cape Town.

Friedland announced the findings of an independent pre-feasibility study after Ivanhoe invested $800 million in exploration and development. The capacity of the project’s first phase, producing 6 million tons of ore a year, could later be tripled, the company said. Initial mine grades will average 6.8 percent copper, with production expected to start in 2021.

“Grade is king,” said Friedland, who is co-chairman of Ivanhoe. “Nothing even comes close to Kamoa-Kakula.”

The first mine will be able to finance two further mines and a smelter, with investment of $1.1 billion, he said. “That is mind-boggling and we’ve never seen that before,” said Friedland.

Ivanhoe is developing Kamoa-Kakula with its Chinese joint-venture partner Zijing Mining Group Co. and the Congolese government.

Exciting Prospect

The results from drill hole DD1450 at Kamoa North, released by Ivanhoe last week, were “nothing short of extraordinary,” Paul Gait, an analyst at Sanford C. Bernstein, said in a note. They confirm that “the broader Kamoa-Kakula region is by far the most important and exciting mining project in the world today,” he said.

Ivanhoe shares have climbed 21 percent in Toronto since it reported the results of the drill hole at Kamoa North on Jan. 30. That gave the company a market value of C$2.94 billion ($2.2 billion).

Over more than two decades, mining investor Friedland 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 $3 billion. Ivanhoe is also developing a platinum mine in South Africa.

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