Join our mailing list

You can help!!


Transfer of Ivanhoe’s Burmese assets to weapons firm must be probed

Information Release by Canadian Friends of Burma (CFOB) – Ottawa, June 20, 2011

Information recently disclosed by Burma’s state-controlled media substantiates CFOB’s previously stated concerns that Vancouver-based Ivanhoe Mine’s Burmese assets were transferred to the Chinese weapons firm Norinco via a businessman connected to the Burmese regime. 

The mouthpiece of Burma’s military regime The New Light of Myanmar reported April 5 that Norinco reached a "Production Sharing Contract" with the partially state owned Union of Myanmar Economic Holdings Ltd (UMEH) that covers the mining rights for three deposits located at the Monywa copper mine. All three deposits Sabetaung, Sabetaung South and Kyisintaung were developed jointly as the S&K mine by Ivanhoe’s joint venture with the Burmese regime Myanmar Ivanhoe Copper Company Limited (MICCL). 

CFOB is deeply disturbed by reports of Norinco’s involvement in the Monywa mine.  We urge both Canadian and US authorities to immediately investigate the present status of Ivanhoe’s Burmese assets and take punitive action against Ivanhoe if sanctions have been violated.

CFOB’s Executive Director Tin Maung Htoo believes the Canadian public has a right to know what has occurred with Ivanhoe’s Burmese investments.  "If indeed the black listed entity UMEH obtained Ivanhoe’s stake in Monywa and resold it to Norinco, this would violate both Canadian and US sanctions," says Tin Maung Htoo.   "Ivanhoe must be punished financially for any illegality that may have happened" he adds.

Ivanhoe owned a 50% operating interest in the MICCL joint venture from its creation in 1996 until February 2007 when Ivanhoe transferred its stake in MICCL to an "independent third party trust" called the Monywa Trust.

In December 2007 Ivanhoe, citing a lack of knowledge about what was occurring at MICCL’s Monywa copper mine, claimed that it was "prudent to record a $134.3 million write-down" in the value of their 50% holding in the Burmese joint venture thus reducing its value to zero.

Serious questions remain as to the validity of Ivanhoe’s decision to write down the value of its investment in MICCL in particularly because Monywa still had large amounts of copper to mine.  According to Ivanhoe’s regulatory filings, beginning in 1998 when commercial operations began at the Monywa mine MICCL received a 20 year lease for the rights to mine the three deposits that made up the S&K mine.

In June 2009 Burma’s state backed Myanmar Times reported that MICCL managing director Glenn Ford said that the Monywa copper project was up and running and "one of the lowest-cost production mines in the world".
How a mine that is officially valued at zero by Ivanhoe’s accountants could still continue to produce highly valued copper remains a question that Ivanhoe refuses to explain. In Ivanhoe’s Annual Information form filed with Canadian authorities and dated March 2008 Ivanhoe explained their decision to reduce the value of their Burmese assets with the following "it was determined that IVN’s non-involvement in the Monywa Copper Project operations since it was transferred to the Monywa Trust, the lack of knowledge of the project’s current activities and the fact that no sale had been achieved in almost a year since the asset was transferred to the Monywa Trust, indicated that the carrying value of the investment is impaired."

In CFOB’s opinion Ivanhoe’s justification for reducing the value of the Monywa assets are extremely dubious.   While Ivanhoe claimed to be in the dark about MICCL’s activities, the fact that the firm’s Executive Vice-President, Exploration Douglas Kirwin remained a director at MICCL after Ivanhoe’s transfer its stake to the trust should have given Ivanhoe a direct source of information about MICCL’s operations.  Oddly enough Ivanhoe ignored Kirwin’s continued role with MICCL failing to mention it in any subsequent financial reports or corporate filings. 

According to the MICCL website Kirwin is still a member of the MICCL board of directors, representing Bagan Copper Holdings, the entity formerly known as Ivanhoe Myanmar Holdings Limited, (the British Virgin Islands Holding firm that held Ivanhoe’s stake in MICCL).  Since Ivanhoe’s transfer of the firm’s Burmese assets in 2007 Kirwin continued to travel to Burma and according to the New Light of Myanmar in September 2009 and September 2010 gave presentations to the Myanmar Geosciences Society. 

At both of Kirwin’s presentations he was accompanied by his fellow MICCL board member Dr. Andrew Mitchell who worked as a senior geologist for Ivanhoe in Burma.   Mitchell was described in a New Light of Myanmar published last September as still being a representative of Ivanhoe Myanmar Holding Ltd (IMHL). 

It was Mitchell who ordered his driver in December 2003 to drive to Aung San Suu Kyi’s house.  Mitchell apparently thought that being an employee of a foreign company meant he could drive anywhere.  When they approached Aung San Suu Kyi’s house they were stopped.  His driver was jailed by the Burmese regime for an lengthy sentence for the absurd charge of forcing Mitchell to drive to Suu Kyi’s house while being on drugs.  See previous CFOB press release /news/KoAyelwinAndIvanhoe.html

Monywa area’s Environmental Degradation caused by Ivanhoe’s operations
Since large scale heap leaching first began at the Monywa site in 1998 local farmers in the area of the mine have been increasingly unable to grow crops on their land because of higher level of acidity in their soil.  CFOB believes that toxic runoff from one of the world’s largest heap leach operations has destroyed the farmer’s land and is the cause of the lower PH level.

Australian researchers who studied the three leach pads used at Monywa found that they were some of the most acidic heap leach operations in the world.  In the words of the Australian team "The heap solution chemistry is extremely acidic, with a solution pH of usually less than 1.5 and in some cases less than 1.0."  The researchers speculated that high acidity was caused by the pyrite content of the ore.  (see J.J Plumb et al 2007)

According to a second paper published by two of the same researchers unlike the Monywa mine "Most heap bioleaching operations treating low grade ore operate with a solution pH between 1.5 and 2.5". (see J.J Plumb et al 2008)

Ivanhoe has repeatedly claimed that environmental degradation in the Monywa mine area is a result of previous operations at the site which took place between 1983 and the early 1990’s by the Burmese regime initially with the support of Bor Copper Institute of Yugoslavia.  The Yugoslav-Burmese copper project was relatively small compared to the MICCL operations which are much larger and involve the use of acid generating heap leach system.

While previous operations at Monywa certainly caused damage to the environment its clear the higher acidity in nearby farm land did not become an issue until after Ivanhoe and MICCL became involved at the mine site.

Prior to launching his partnership with Burma’s killer generals Ivanhoe Chairman Robert Friedland was CEO of another Vancouver based mining firm Galactic Resources. Galactic ran a disastrous gold mine in the San Juan Mountains of Colorado called Summitville. Thousands of liters of toxic mining waste leaked from the mine into a nearby river killing all aquatic life downstream for at least 17 miles, earning Friedland the nickname Toxic Bob.

Friedland and his colleagues at Galatic blamed previous mining operations at the mine site for the environmental problems.  The US Environmental Protection Agency and the State of Colorado disagreed with Friedland’s alibi and took him to court.

In December 2000 after nearly a decade long legal fight with US government authorities, Friedland agreed to personally pay US $27.5 million towards the clean up of the mine, the largest such fine in US history. To date US taxpayers have spent more than $200 million to clean up Summitville, called by many the costliest environmental mining disaster in US history.

Friedland pal from Summitville "responsible" for Burma open pit/heap leach
James Currie, who worked in Burma for Ivanhoe Mines for three years previously served as Technical Services Manager for Friedland’s notorious Galactic Resources in 1990 when the firm’s main property the Summitville mine was leaking large amounts of cyanide laced toxic fluid into local rivers on a daily basis.   

According to Currie’s professional career history contained in an SEC filing for a different firm where he was recently employed "As Operations Manager for Ivanhoe, Mr. Currie was responsible for Ivanhoe’s copper operations in Myanmar including an open pit, heap leach SX/EW mine."  In addition to his involvement with the open pit leach pad, Currie served as board member of MICCL from August 1999 to October 2002. (Please see Highwood Resources LTD 6-K filing with SEC November 12, 2002)

No doubt Currie, Friedland and their fellow colleagues at Ivanhoe were pleased that in Burma there isn’t an Environmental Protection Agency to follow up on what they were doing. 

J.J. Plumb, R.B. Hawkes, and P.D. Franzmann, 2007 "The microbiology of moderately thermophilic and transiently thermophilic ore heaps", in Biomining, D.E.Rawlings and D.B. Johnson, eds., Springer, Berlin, pp. 217–235.

J.J. Plumb, R. Muddle, P.D. Franzmann, 2008 "Effect of pH on rates of iron and sulfur oxidation by bioleaching organisms" Minerals Engineering 21 pp. 76–82.

Highwood Resources LTD 6-K filing with SEC November 12, 2002

The Canadian Friends of Burma (CFOB) is federally incorporated, national non-governmental organization working for democracy and human rights in Burma. Contact: Suite 206, 145 Spruce St., Ottawa, K1R 6P1; Tel: 613.237.8056; Email:; Web:


Press Releases/Statements and News

Burma Parliamentary delegation expected in Canada

CFOB statement on latest communal violence in Burma

What more can Canada do in Burma? - Tin Maung Htoo

Burma’s Kachin seek Canadian support

Staying true for human rights for all - Rebecca Wolsak

Why Inter Pares is wrong on Burma - Tin Maunng Htoo

CFOB concerned with Kachin conflicts in northern Burma

CFOB 2012 Annual Report released!

Statement on CFOB AGM on Dec. 15, 2012

Burmese Civil Society Organizations Dismayed by Inter Pares

CFOB AGM on Dec. 15 in Toronto

Minister Jason Kenney to Meet with Prominent Buddhist Monk

CFOB in Crisis with Rohingya in Burma

Baird Concerned about Renewed Violence in Rekhine State

Burmese Foreign Minister Queitly Visited to Canada

CFOB Policy Statement: “Navigating the thaw: Burma-Canada Relations in 2012 and beyond”

Over 70 Canadians and Burmese activists cleared from 'Blacklist'

Revised: Canada Calls for Peaceful Solution in Arakan state of Burma

Advocating humanitarian assistance to Kachin IDPs in Burma

Parliamentary Testimony with Aung Din (USCB)

Parliamentary Testimony with Tin Maung Htoo (CFOB)

Minister Kenney Surprises Burmese Community with Announcement

Minister Jason Kenney to meet with Burmese community leaders in Toronto

Policy Consultation on Burma

Burma Day - Celebrating 20th of CFOB

Long-time Burma supporter Brian John passed away

CFOB pleased by prisoners release but more reform needed

CFOB Welcomes Fine For Firm That Illegally Exported Plane to Burma

CFOB Welcomes U.S Secretary of States Visit to Burma

CFOB Saddend by the Loss of Jack Layton

Cross Canada bike ride for Burma reaching to final destination

Ivanhoe received US$103 million from Burma's copper mines

Burmese President accepts credentials of Canadian Ambassador to Burma

Aung San Suu Kyi supports UN commission of inquiry on Burma

Transfer of Ivanhoe's Burmese assets to weapons firm must be probed

Canada Sends Best Wishes to Aung San Suu Kyi on Her Birthday

66th Birthday Events of Aung San Suu Kyi in Canada

Suu Kyi to be honored on Canada Day in Côte Saint-Luc

Cross-Canada Bike Ride for Burma

Suu Kyi addresses to Conference on ‘Ending Sexual Violence in Conflict’

New Burmese Ambassador to Canada: a messenger for new regime in Burma?

Media coverage on detained Canadian in Burma

Suu Kyi to deliver video message at Carleton University

Carleton University to Honour Aung San Suu Kyi

Canada to Support 'Commission of Inquiry' on Burma's rights violations

Canada to Renew humanitarian support

Canada to welcome additional 1,300 Karen Refugees from Thai-Burma Border

CFOB Welcomes Opposition Party Calling for Economic Sanctions

Two events today in Toronto and Vancouver to mark DSSAK Day

CFOB applauds government and Parliament for granting Honorary Citizenship for Suu Kyi, and urges more action on Burma

CFOB welcomes throne speech to honor Suu Kyi with Honorary Citizenship

Canada Welcomes Statement by the United Nations Security Council on Burma

More news...

Annual Reports

2012 Annual Report

2011 Annual Report

2010 Annual Report

2009 Annual Report

2008 Annual Report

2006 Annual Report

2005 Annual Report


We offer an archive of many publications from agendas of upcoming events to reports and booklets.