MAC: Mines and Communities

Copper miner denies using forced labour in Myanmar : June 16, 2001

Published by MAC on 2001-06-16

Copper miner denies using forced labour in Myanmar : June 16, 2001

Ivanhoe annual meeting: Company officials come prepared to challenge protestors

Drew Hasselback , Financial Post & Chuck Russell, National Post

Robert Friedland, chairman of Ivanhoe Mines, did not attend yesterday's annual meeting picketed by protestors.

VANCOUVER - Ivanhoe Mines Ltd. denied yesterday it uses forced labour at its copper mine in Myanmar and said it remains committed to a US$280-million expansion of the project. Ivanhoe, which is chaired by mining promoter Robert Friedland, owns 50% of the Monywa Copper Project in Myanmar. The other half is owned by the Myanmar government.

"Forced labour is something that is abhorrent to directors, to all of the management, and to anyone right-minded. We have a policy where, I can assure you, we do not use forced labour," Daniel Kunz, Ivanhoe's president, told shareholders at the company's annual meeting yesterday.
About 40 protestors yesterday picketed the Vancouver hotel where Ivanhoe's annual meeting was held. They complained of Myanmar's human rights record and handed out leaflets criticizing the country for allowing forced labour.

Some critics have demanded Ivanhoe quit Myanmar, formerly known as Burma, entirely. Mr. Kunz said Ivanhoe's investment in Myanmar uses no government-produced infrastructure that has been built with involuntary labour.

The company was prepared to be challenged about the human rights issue at yesterday's meeting. Ivanhoe handed out a prepared statement to all shareholders. "There has never been any evidence that Ivanhoe has ever used forced labour, and there is not a whit of evidence that Ivanhoe's investment is contributing to the use of involuntary labour in Myanmar," it said.

In an interview after the meeting, Mr. Kunz said Ivanhoe has received "competing offers" to supply the US$280-million in loan financing the company needs to expand the second phase of the Monywa project. The company wants to increase annual production to 125,000 tonnes by 2003, up from the present level of 30,000 tonnes.

Ivanhoe has been looking for the financing since February, when Mr. Friedland conducted a week-long Canadian road show to promote the company.

Mr. Kunz said it has not been hard to interest lenders from Asia in backing the expansion. Two potential lenders have submitted bids. "That's not a lot of money when you consider the size of resource we're talking about here."

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