Photo: REUTERS/Mike Hutchings

Photo: REUTERS/Mike Hutchings

TORONTO — Ivanplats Robert Friedland needs no introduction. For one, he is North America’s greatest mining showman. Second, he is almost surely a billionaire. Third, he is a miner’s mining exec. “He knows his metals, and his black box works,” platinum prospector and Ivanplats board member William Hayden told me the other day over fizzy water evening drinks in Medellin, Colombia.

Mr. Friedland’s Ivanplats (IVP in Canada) spiders a web of platinum-nickel-copper-zinc-&-gold across South Africa and Democratic Republic of Congo. The IVP web starts near the top of southern Africa’s patriarchy with board member Cyril Ramaphosa, who conceivably could become president of the Republic of South Africa.

Here, for the first time, is the first half of Mr. Friedland’s showmanship from Toronto’s PDAC prospectors’ convention from last week. His was a lively 26-minute affair, laced with racy references and put-downs of competitor miners. This report contains entirely accurate quotations, with little need for comment.

Before the Toronto event, I greeted a vibrant yet thin Mr. Friedland, who said, when asked about his demeanor, replied, “I’m lovely, just lovely.”

The first half of the billed seminar for the public centered on platinum and the Platreef’s Flatreef.

“Our typical intercept (at the Platreef Flatreef) is (more than) 100-gram meters,” Mr. Friedland said, using slides, maps and charts. “There is about twice the amount of nickel and copper there to cover the costs. So it would be negative cost production. We have done a lot of drilling, about a million meters of diamond drill holes.

“So within that cloud, there is something like 75 million or 100 million ounces of negative-cost metal. I remember Bre-X quite well; it was a 100 million ounce deposit. Remember that? (Nervous rustling in audience)

“This one also is much bigger than that and has the distinct added advantage of being real (sartorial laughter).

“So we sold 10 percent of this thing to the Japanese government for about $300 million two years ago, before it was what we know it to be today. So I am going to tell you what it is: We have discovered the Merensky Reef. Average thickness of 35 to 40 meters it goes forever. It’s real and it has a very very important base metal endowment because the floor rocks in this part of the world contribute a lot of sulphur to the magma. … Lot of nickel, lot of copper.

“That flat portion, the Flatreef, it’s as thick as an eight-story building … there is really no end in sight …

“Every square kilometer of the discovery … I think we should go back and mention this to give you an idea of the scale of the discovery. P.T. Barnum always said, ‘Tell people what you’re going to tell them, and then tell them, and then tell them what you told them.’ (Loud into mike and glaring at audience) And it might sink in. See?

“So in the plane of that paper every square kilometer contains 10 (million) to 15 million ounces of negative-cost precious metal. Now this is not blah blah blah gold ounces. This is thick, this is high grade, it’s negative cost and mechanizable … so in that cloud you are looking at … 10 square kilometers … 100 (million) to 150 million ounces in that (pointing to screen) little red cloud … but we have stepped out … you see those stepout holes … at 30 square kilometers (stepping out), we are talking 300 (million) to 450 million ounces of negative-cost precious metal that we have mechanized … people driving air conditioned equipment.

“This is stuff you can actually mine in our lifetime ethically … If anybody knows of a larger precious metals discovery in the last 100 years, would you let me know about it? Because I’ve mentioned it as the largest mechanizable ethical precious metals discovery on a global scale and nobody has challenged me on it.

“AND THAT,” he said, “is a very brief review of the Flatreef at the Platreef. (Pause) Flat is good. Very important. … We can mine that way. It is like the potash mines. Remember the potash operations? Flat (pause) is (pause) good. Dipping (pause) is (pause) bad. Mining engineering 101 right here at the PDAC.

“Now we’re going to leave ladies’ lingerie department and go to sporting goods.

“It’s thick, it’s high grade … You know all about it … Just to remind you of what is going on right now,” said Mr. Friedland, continuing the platinum theme, “if you were to go inside the current generation of (South Africa platinum) mines; this picture was taken at 3.2 km of depth … (pause) look at this guy in the front row he’s sound asleep … wake this poor guy up or kick him out. (Laughter) I don’t know; you keep doing that we’ll make you sit up here.

” … so there you are now you are in South Africa. You are 3.2 km deep now and the wall rock is 50 degrees centigrade. It’s 100 percent humidity. If a guy farts down there those guys have a really big problem because there is no friction, no ventilation … there is (sic) 3,100 men at the working face (and) it takes 2 ½ hrs for a man to get down to that face … at the Marikana platinum mine (in South Africa) … and they are getting silicosis … Now I live in a very rich place called Singapore, much richer than Canada … there is a 4 Seasons … I went into a steambath … up to 50 degrees centigrade and of course it’s 100 percent humidity and I lasted 22 minutes but I wasn’t doing any work. I was laying (sic) on my back, using a towel as my pillow. It takes 2/12 hours for a man to get down to that working face. If they get claustrophobic it takes 2 ½ hours to get up to the sunlight. And they are doing it for $11 a day.

“… Now if you want back to America in the 1840s the leading class of equities, you really wanted to buy a blue chip, dividend paying stock … at first you bought canal stocks, like the Erie Canal Co. … Those canal stocks, which were the bluest of the blue chips in the 1830s and the 1840s on the New York Stock Exchange did not do so well when railroads got invented. So after you crawl out on your hands and knees and it’s really bad ground, a lot of people are dying … aside from the other virtues of that mess, you have to understand, the Anglo American Corporation … Anglo is like a man with one foot in a bucket of ice and another foot in a bucket of hot coals. On average he’s not too bad. But the open pit mines that Anglo has are not so bad, (they) mine platinum at $400 to $500 an ounce. But these deep high grade mines these hot ones they are paying their workers 12 13 1and 4 dollars a day …but their cash costs are way in excess of the current price of platinum …

“They are losing money on every ounce … so when you finally crawl all the way in there … to the working face … it looks like this now you just imagine 3,000 men down there; everything they do is done with muscle power … this is like something out of the 16th century … They make cribbing with timber with muscle power … they scrape that stuff out of there you know with muscle power … and they are drilling with muscle power.

“This is something whose time has come; because if you are the Toyota Motor Co., you can’t sell a yuppy a Toyota Prius in California based on this sort of activity … because you already have the concept of ethical diamonds; there is no young lady that wants a symbol of love in her engagement ring that comes from someone who was shot in the head after mining it. (Laughter)

“This is going the way of the dodo bird … it is not going to happen anymore … So that is enough of the platinum, we’re going to leave ladies lingerie in a moment. … There is that guy falling asleep again, I don’t know how you do it.”

Shifting to Kamoa, Mr. Friedland continued, “Most copper miners don’t have a copper mine with a 2 percent copper cutoff … or a 3 percent … This is the richest copper discovery in the world … (he references Zambia, former Rhodesia) … Kamoa was hiding under a blanket of sand. Sometimes the sand is just a meter thick, sometimes it is 10 meters thick. Just a blanket of sand that was hiding a beautiful naked woman under that sand, until now.”


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Disclosure: Thom owns shares of Ivanplats. This is not investment advice. All facts to be verified by the reader. We seek safe harbor.