In depth interview: Friedland on the new world order

Lifetime Achievement Award recipient Robert Friedland at the Canadian Mining Symposium in London.

Robert Friedland, the founder and executive co-chairman of Ivanhoe Mines (TSXL IVN; US-OTC: IVPAF) gave a keynote presentation at this year’s virtual CRU World Copper Conference. Filmed from his home in Singapore on April 13, the billionaire spoke about what the electric future will look like and what needs to happen to the supply chain to get there. He also called copper a “national security issue.” What follows is an edited transcript of his comments:

“We’re here to talk about the revenge of the miners and how important it is that we sustainably mine copper metal for the new world economy. We spent about 100 years where the principal real reason for fighting wars was hydrocarbon. War! Hydrocarbon! And now we see hydrocarbon relatively less important over a period of say a generation; for a generation and a half. And so we now see the balkanization of the world economy, where Greater China has been focused on their energy security, on their own industrial transformation, their own electrification, the improvement of the environment for their own people, top to bottom, eliminating water pollution, air pollution, electric transportation. And then a fear of Europe and the United States. That they also have to secure their entire, top to bottom,  supply chain, and that leaves people out, like the Japanese, or the Koreans, or the Indonesians, or the Brazilians, wondering about their supply chain. And so as each block starts worrying about the national security implications of their supply chain, this balkanization of what was a perfectly integrated world economy the last ten years, is inherently inflationary, and inherently involves the duplication of effort.

“If you want to buy mining equipment; if you want to find the copper and mine it, as the world demands copper, and nickel, and cobalt, and aluminum and electrically conducted metals, we’re going to see a lot of inflation”

Robert Friedland

If an American went to a Walmart store the last ten years, to buy some cheap consumer goods, they were invariably made in China. And even now, America’s trade deficit is super-high with China. And if that lawnmower, or that microwave oven, or that washing machine is not made in China, it’s going to be a lot more expensive. And so we’re seeing a lot of inflation coming up in the system, and we see the Federal Reserve Board and other monetary authorities whistling in the dark, they’ve been so worried about, well let’s say there’s a man walking over Niagara Falls, on a tightrope, balancing, and if he’s going to fall off on the left, that’s deflation. And that’s been the big fear. So the Federal Reserve board says oh we’re going to tilt towards the inflationary side. Obviously the danger is that they’re going to overdo it, and fall right over the other side. We’re seeing inflation in the price of good geologists. We’re seeing inflation in the price of raw material input already. If you want to buy mining equipment; if you want to find the copper and mine it, as the world demands copper, and nickel, and cobalt, and aluminum and electrically conducted metals, we’re going to see a lot of inflation.

So in mining, we know what to do when things are really cheap, and we know what to do when things are really, really expensive, and we’re somewhere in the middle heading towards expensive. We’re just in the early stages of reflating the world economy and balkanizing the world economy; and each country is very, very nervous. I’m here in Singapore, a little island 623 sq. km, no crude oil, no water, no agricultural potential worthy of mention; importing everything from their neighbours, and around the world, and they wake up and say wow, we have to reinvent ourselves.”

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