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Why Robert Friedland is bullish on copper

Ivanhoe Mines executive chairman Robert Friedland in 2014 at the site of the initial Kamoa discovery: Image: Govind Friedland via

After having invested $1.2 billion to develop the Kamoa-Kakula project in the Democratic Republic of Congo, it is no surprise that Ivanhoe Mines’ executive chairman, Robert Friedland, is bullish on copper.

The engine that drives his confidence comes in the form of electric vehicles which, according to investment manager U.S. Global Investors, need up to four times the amount of copper traditional cars need and whose demand is expected to grow so much that, by 2027, 1.74 million tonnes of copper will be needed to meet it. Today’s demand is of 184,000 tonnes.

China is the main consumer of the world’s copper, with imports reaching 17.35 million tonnes in 2017. In its quest to curb pollution, the Asian giant is forecast to become one of the largest EV manufacturers in the coming years, thus increasing its copper needs even more.

Precisely talking to U.S. Global Investors about this topic, Friedland said that within this context people are going “to need a telescope to see copper prices in 2021.” Besides increased demand, he thinks prices could hit higher notes due to global supply disruptions such as those caused by labour negotiations in the world’s No.1 producer -Chile.

Ivanhoe Mines chairman, however, is confident his own project is going to continue to move forward smoothly. Located in an uninhabited area within the Central African Copperbelt, Kamoa-Kakula is set to become the third largest copper mine in the planet, only topped by Escondida in Chile and Australia’s Olympic Dam in terms of sheer size. Its resource base was lifted above a billion tonnes and its average copper grade is estimated at 7.3 per cent.

Even though copper experienced a considerable fall this week, it had been on a tear since May 2017, reaching $7,000 a tonne for the first time in three years. Together with prices, China’s imports climbed to 17.35 million tonnes in 2017, up 2.3 per cent from the previous year.