MAC: Mines and Communities

Alarming mining-related news continues to filter out of one of the world's most beleaguered counties

Published by MAC on 2001-05-01

Alarming mining-related news continues to filter out of one of the world's most beleaguered counties. The notorious mining entrepreneur, "Toxic Bob" Friedland, is seeking new investment to expand his company Ivanhoe's Monywa copper mine. And a US journalist investigating HIV/AIDS in Asia believes that Burma's gem mines are the source of its worst incidence anywhere on the continent - comparable to that in southern Africa.

No knight in shining armour

by Eric Snider

With copper prices almost double what they were a year ago and with production on the rise at Burma's Monywa mine, Ivanhoe Mines and its joint venture partner, Burma's military regime, are doing just fine for the moment. Ivanhoe claims to have written "expressions of interest" from companies in Korea, Japan and China that are willing to finance expansion of the JV Monywa mine to the adjacent Letpadaung deposit.

According to the latest rose tinted scenario sketched out in Ivanhoe's 2nd quarter report, if all goes according to plan, production should rise to an annual 50,000 tonnes of copper cathode during 2005 from the current 30,000 tonnes, and from there, with financing from one or all of the "interested" partners firmly in place, up to 200,000 tonnes in no time at all.

The joint venture company is counting on an increase in electric power supply to 40 MW by the end of of this year and on an additional 60 to 80 MW when it expands. There are some signs that at least one generator may be functioning at MEPE's new Monchaung plant by the end of this year and that the long-delayed Paunglaung power plant near Pyinmana may also limp into action in the next few months. So, one way or another, Ivanhoe and partner may get the power needed to drive the first phase of their production expansion program. None of the copper produced is currently used in the country.

Trouble is there is still no knight in shining armour waiting in the wings to come in and take the whole thing at Monywa off Ivanhoe's hands, so that it can concentrate on getting the "fabulous" copper and gold treasures buried in its Oyu Tolgoi prospect in Mongolia into production.

Folks who have written to Ivanhoe to inquire about the welfare of a chauffeur who was reportedly locked up for seven years after taking Ivanhoe's manager in Yangon too close to the home of Aung San Suu Kyi last Decemeber have been coldly informed by the company's Ed Flood that no such person ever worked for the company in Yangon. But readers of the English language edition of the July 28th edition New Light of Myanmar were treated to a rehash of the accusations by columnist Pauk Sa who hesitated not to drive home his point:

"Now, I will tell the truth about the matter. Ko Thet Lwin was appointed by the company as the driver of the project manager of the company, Dr Andrew Michell, a British citizen."

No doubt there. The two partners of Myanmar Ivanhoe Copper, it appears, are at odds over this one. Meanwhile, the "abandoned" driver continues to languish in prison.

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