MAC: Mines and Communities

Friedland and Rio Tinto: washing their hands of Burma, while the dirt still clings

Published by MAC on 2007-04-02

Friedland and Rio Tinto: washing their hands of Burma, while the dirt still clings

2nd April 2007

It must be one of the most castigated mines in the world: the Burma-based Monywa copper venture of Robert "Toxic Bob" Friedland's Ivanhoe Mines has been condemned for more than a decade - by the international mineworkers' union, the ICEM, Amnesty Canada, and a raft of human rights' organisations worldwide.

The company tried to sell off it s 40% holding in the mine two years ago - but no one came up with the cash.

So, what chance is there that anyone else will fork out, now that Ivanhoe has put the asset on the market once again? And why has it done so now?

The reason is obvious (and was foreshadowed on this site back in October 2006, when few others seemed to be listening. See:

A condition of Rio Tinto's investment in Ivanhoe last October was that Friedland’s outfit should divest itself of its Burma holdings. The UK company's key strategy was to secure a key position in Ivanhoe's Oyu Tolgoi copper-gold project in Mongolia. But Rio Tinto was also conscious that any involvement in Burma under the current murderous regime would be a severe embarrassment to it - especially when, ten years ago, its chairman had vowed "never to invest in Burma while the military is in power."

In fact, Rio Tinto acquired nearly 10% ownership of Ivanhoe more than five months ago - and thus has already broken its pledge.

Who will manage Monywa while the new "independent trust" scouts for new buyers?

Clearly Ivanhoe will continue to do so - backed implicitly by Rio Tinto

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