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Burma copper JV

151647 :RPT-Voisey Bay's Friedland eyes Burma copper
    By James Regan
    SYDNEY, May 15 (Reuter) - Mining entrepreneur Robert
Friedland's Indochina Goldfields Ltd group has formed a 50-50
joint venture with the Burmese government to resurrect a large
copper resource, Friedland told Reuters on Wednesday.
    The resource, located in Burma's central valley district,
was abandoned by Japanese and Yugoslavian interests and had
financial links with the former March Rich group, Friedland
    Phase one of the redevelopment would see annual output of
between 25,000 and 30,000 tonnes of copper cathode starting in
1998 employing the non-smelting solvent extraction process, he
said. Under a second stage, output would eventually increase by
up to five times that figure.
    "We're waiting for the political and economic development of
the country to mature prior to committing to a larger stage of
development," Friedland said.
    "The ultimate state of development could be 100,000 to
150,000 metric tonnes a year," he added.
    Capital cost for developing stage one would be about US $100
million, Friedland said.
    Indochina has spent around US$25 million to $30 million so
far on drilling and exploration.
    Friedland, whose Toronto Stock Exchange-listed Diamond
Fields Resources Inc <DFR.TO> is the driving force behind the
giant Voisey Bay nickel discovery in Canada, said the copper
would be consumed domestically or exported, probably to Asia.
    "The copper is of great interest to the Japanese, the
Koreans and the Chinese," Friedland said.
    Friedland said he expects four of seven Japanese copper
smelters to close in the next four years.
    "These smelters were built shortly after World War Two  and
they're utterly not sufficiently attractive ... the capital to
make them environmentally acceptable is just too high, so they
are going to shut down," he said.
    The Yugoslavian government had financed a flotation mill at
the Burmese copper mine to produce copper concentrates, which
were brokered by the Marc Rich group, Friedland said.
    "That mine fell into disrepair under a state-owned company
in partnership with the Yugoslavian government," Friedland said.
    Sumitomo Metal Mining Co Ltd <5713.T> and Marubeni Corp
<8002.T> have taken equity positions in the project, Friedland
    Ways to convert the mine to directly produce refined copper
instead of concentrates are currently being studied, he said.
    --Sydney Newsroom