Robert Freidland

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Robert M. Friedland is the infamous Chairman of Ivanhoe Mines. He is a 'self-made' billionaire, number 645 on the Forbes richest Americans in 2006, with wealth close to $1.2 billion. Described as "arrogant, petulant, insulting" but also "intelligent" and "flamboyant" by his friend Doug Casey, [1] Friedland's colourful corporate career has included wild speculations on mining futures, spectacular pollution scandals and controversial deals with governments and military regimes. In 2003 he was named Mining’s Biggest Renegade at the Dirty Digger Awards. (NI, 2006)

'Toxic Bob'

"He got his start in mining in the mid-1980s when a loan from a relative bought him a joint venture with Rio Tinto Zinc in a gold mine in Nevada. His big break came in 1994 when his claim that Voisey Bay in Newfoundland was ‘the richest nickel, copper and cobalt deposit on the planet Earth’ boosted Ivanhoe shares from $4 to $167 in two years. Today he is saying similar things about Mongolia, despite producing nothing at all, while spending millions on public projects to raise his profile with the locals.
"In 1997 the Tasmanian Government virtually gave the Savage River iron mine to Freidland for a ‘deferred’ payment, while changing the law to exempt him from responsibility for any environmental damage it might cause. Freidland is now waxing lyrical about a uranium deposit in western Queensland – despite a ban on uranium mining in that state and widespread local opposition." (NI, 2006)

He earned his nickname 'Toxic Bob' after a spectacular cyanide spill from his gold mine in Summitville, Colorado in 1993, which has been called the biggest cyanide disaster in U.S. History, named the 'Exxon-Valdez' of the mining industry. He was CEO of the Omai gold in Guyana in 1995 when a tailings pond collapsed killing all life in two rivers. "No reparations at all have been paid here. An ‘independent’ report on the disaster denied any damage, despite news photographs and eyewitness accounts of dead fish, pigs and crocodiles. The mine was a joint venture with the World Bank, the Guyana Government and Freidland’s South American Goldfields. Once again, a timely resignation saved him from legal responsibility." (NI, 2006)

"The threat of similar incidents was one of the reasons why people took to the streets to protest against Ivanhoe Mines in Mongolia in April 2006, burning an effigy of Freidland and camping out in the capital, Ulaanbaatar, for three weeks. The venture covers 82,000 square kilometres, an area the size of a small country, relatively untouched by industrial intervention. Even speculators are a bit skittish about Mongolia. Ivanhoe Mines posted a loss of $23.2 million in the first quarter of 2006. Perhaps Freidland’s karma is finally catching up with him." (NI, 2006)

Perhaps his most infamous business dealings involve the partnership his company Ivanhoe Myanmar Holdings and later Indochina Goldfields (renamed Ivanhoe Mines in 1999) forged with the Burmese regime SLORC (now called the State Peace and Development Council (SPDC)). In 1994 SLORC and Ivanhoe began a lucrative joint venture in the Monywa copper mine, reputed to be the most profitable copper mine in the world. SLORC has a record of forcing labour on Burmese villagers, forcing workers to pay a part of their output to the state or taking their land in return for not forcing them to labour for the regime. This behaviour has led many multinational corporations, including Rio Tinto, to refuse to do business there. Mining Watch Canada say SLORC are being well supported by funds from Ivanhoe's mining activities. With no environmental laws mining operations in Burma can be expected to be dirty, people downstream reported skin irritation from water discharged from the plant running bright blue with copper sulphate.

In 1997 Australian Broadcasting Corporation journalist, Stan Correy, reported on "an associated company of Robert Friedland, Diamondworks, owns 'Branch Energy' which is the mining company most closely associated with Executive Outcomes, Sandline [full name: Sandline International ] and Colonel Tim Spicer." [2]


Articles and resources

Related Sourcewatch articles


  1. Officers, North America-Mongolia Business Council, accessed September 2, 2008.
  2. Directors, Ivanhoe Australia, accessed June 1, 2009.

External links

Biographical profiles

Articles & Speeches by Friedland

General Articles