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Chretien and inner circle go to work for billionaire mining financier

VANCOUVER - Jean Chretien has been hired by Vancouver-based Ivanhoe Energy Inc., part of the Ivanhoe umbrella of companies controlled by billionaire financier Robert Friedland -- which remains tied to an open pit mine co-owned by the ruling military junta in Myanmar.

As a "senior international advisor" Chretien will provide undisclosed advisory services to Ivanhoe Capital Corporation's numerous subsidiary energy and mining companies through a contract with Vancouver-based Global Mining Management, a private company owned primarily by Ivanhoe companies.

This high-profile appointment comes on the heels of Ivanhoe Mines Ltd.'s hiring of Chretien's former chief of staff Eddie Goldenberg and former Canadian Ambassador to the US, Allan Gotlieb in May. Goldenberg was an influential advisory and member of Chretien's inner circle during his two terms as prime minister, and Gotlieb served as a senior civil servant prior to being appointed to Canada's most important diplomatic posting.

Filings with Canada's Office of the Commissioner of Lobbying show that Goldenberg and Gotlieb have been hired to lobby Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada and the Canadian Ambassador to Mongolia about "Canada's position regarding foreign investments in Mongolia."

News of Friedland's latest hiring was followed today with news from Mongolia that Ivanhoe's plans to develop the Oyu Tolgoi mine -- the world's largest, undeveloped porphyry copper-gold deposit -- have cleared a major hurdle in the Mongolian parliament. Development of this mining complex, which has consumed the last five years of Friedland's attention, has been made possible by a partnership with London-based mining superpower Rio Tinto.

As a pre-condition of its support for the Oyu Tolgoi project, Rio Tinto demanded that Ivanhoe and its subsidiaries divest from the controversial Monywa copper mine in Myamar, which came into production as a result of Friedland's courting of the ruling junta of General Than Shwe, which remains a 50 percent owner in the project.

In February of 2007, Ivanhoe Mines Ltd. transferred its 50 per cent stake in Monywa to an unnamed third party trust, which took control of the assets with the intention of selling them off. The move appears to have placated Rio Tinto, but that did not stop the company from receiving over six million in dividend payments from the joint venture with the Burmese dictatorship in 2007 alone.

The unsold Monywa assets today continue to linger in this third-party trust. Ivanhoe Mines continues to claim they have divested itself from the mine, but this did not stop the US Treasury Department's Office of Foreign Assets Control from listing Yangon-based "Myanmar Ivanhoe Copper Company Limited" on its January 2009 list of "Specially-Designated Nationals And Blocked Persons" -- a list of companies and persons who continue to operate in contravention of US international sanctions.

Christopher Pollon is a contributing editor with The Tyee.

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