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Global overview: update on recent and upcoming mining law conferences

Michael Bourassa


Wednesday 18 July 2018

There are numerous international conferences held on an annual basis that attract or specifically target and cater to mining law practitioners. Not only do they allow each of us to catch up on our continuing legal education and professional development requirements as required by our various law societies and bar associations, they also provide an excellent opportunity to network with clients and colleagues from around the world.

Following is a summary of various organisations and the conferences that already have been held in 2018 and that are planned for later in 2018 and early in 2019. This information is intended to inform readers about the resources that are available and the nature of the topics that have been or will be presented this year, in order to encourage participation.

Prospectors and Developers Association of Canada (PDAC) Convention, Toronto, Canada: 4–7 March 2018

The PDAC has been a leading voice of the mineral exploration and development community since 1932. With over 7,500 members around the world, its mission is to promote a globally responsible, vibrant and sustainable minerals industry. It is best known for its annual convention, the world’s premier mineral exploration and mining event, which attracts investors, analysts, mining executives, prospectors, geologists, First Nations’ representatives, government officials and lawyers from around the world. In 2018, attendance exceeded 25,000 from over 125 countries, an indication reflecting that the mining industry is on an upswing.

This was the third year the PDAC, in partnership with the World Economic Forum, hosted the International Mines Ministers Summit, bringing together 26 ministers responsible for mining from around the world – the largest turnout to date. The convention also hosted First Nations, capital markets, and corporate social responsibility (CSR) events series, as well as technical programmes. The convention has become a regular meeting place for hundreds of international mining lawyers each year. Next year it will take place from 3 to 6 March 2019. Lawyers planning to attend would be well advised to book early. Information can be obtained at

Contemporaneously with the convention, Fasken held its fourth annual PDAC seminar series (13 sessions in all) with a general theme of ‘legal innovation’, featuring international and external speakers. Topics featured legal issues relating to blockchain and cryptocurrency, artificial intelligence, electric vehicles and the demand for growth in various commodities (lithium, cobalt, graphite, various rare earth metals, copper and nickel), intellectual property implications in co-development arrangements, tax issues for royalties and streams, business and human rights, and the UN Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. The series also included various regional presentations (Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Mexico, Morocco, Peru and South Africa) and the country-by-country results of the annual Survey of Mining Companies presented by the Fraser Institute. Information on the seminars can be obtained at

International Bar Association (IBA) Section on Environment, Energy, Natural Resources and Infrastructure Law (SEERIL) Biennial Conference, Lisbon, Portugal: 8–11 April 2018

The IBA, established in 1947, and based in London, is the world’s leading organisation of international legal practitioners, bar associations, law firms and law societies. The IBA seeks to influence the development of international law reform and shape the future of the legal profession throughout the world. It has a membership of more than 80,000 individual lawyers and more than 190 bar associations and law societies spanning over 170 countries.
SEERIL is composed of six subject-matter committees of the IBA: Environment, Health and Safety Law; International Construction Projects; Mining Law; Oil and Gas Law; Power Law; and Water Law. The current chair is Eugene Smary, Warner Norcross & Judd, Grand Rapids, Michigan, US. The current co-chairs of the Mining Law Committee are Michael Bourassa, Fasken, Toronto, Canada and Pedro Freitas, Veirano Partners, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

About 250 lawyers met this year at the Biennial SEERIL conference with the overall theme ‘The rapid tide of transformation and disruption in energy, transportation, and industrial activity: how technology is fundamentally changing the way the world does business, and how lawyers can keep up with these trends and be prepared to face new challenges and opportunities’. Conference chairs this year were Roger Martella, General Electric, Boston, Massachusetts, US and Angeles Murgier, Beccar Varela, Buenos Aires, Argentina.

As part of the overall theme, the biennial saw the release of a book prepared under the guidance of SEERIL’s Academic Advisory Group (AAG), How Technological and Legal Innovation are Transforming Energy Law, written by 36 academics from 21 nations. On the first day of the conference, a panel of some of the authors, moderated by Professor Lee Godden (University of Melbourne and Chair of AAG), examined relevant developments in global energy law triggered by these innovations. As described in the SEERIL programme, ‘The energy sector has been influenced by three major energy policy challenges: market reform, climate change, and supply security. These three challenges are part of the “energy triangle” identified by the World Economic Forum that are highly influential in driving innovation in energy law. Further, the interaction between legal and technology innovation is advancing the rapidly growing global effort to transition away from high-carbon energy to low-carbon or no-carbon energy. New legal frameworks may be required to support these energy innovations, such as energy storage and offshore energy production technologies.’ The book is available from the IBA or the University of Oxford press via

As part of the overall theme, members of the Mining Law Committee moderated a panel, ‘Minerals for new technologies and low carbon economies: legal issues’. In a 2017 report from the World Bank entitled The Growing Role of Minerals and Metals for a Low Carbon Future, the authors projected more than a 1,000 per cent rise in demand for metals needed for energy battery storage technologies, and roughly a 200 per cent rise in relevant metals demand just for wind and solar technologies in order to meet certain goals of the 2015 Paris Agreement on Climate Change, which was signed by more than 170 countries. Correspondingly, the continuing evolution of new communication and information technologies presents dramatically shifting mineral development requirements. The minerals needed to meet these clean energy and other evolving technology-driven developments include lithium, cobalt, graphite, rare earth metals such as neodymium and indium, and key base metals such as copper, silver, aluminium (bauxite), nickel, zinc and possibly platinum.

The Mining Law Committee also moderated a panel on ‘Legal challenges to exploring, developing, and operating mines in Africa – the Lusophone Africa experience’. The panel focused on lessons learned from the legal and practical challenges and opportunities of investing in the mining sector in Mozambique, Angola and Guinea Bissau, with a particular focus on how to navigate the infrastructure, environmental and social risks in all stages of the mine lifecycle when institutional capacity is weak and mining codes are evolving.

The link provides additional information and a copy of the programme. SEERIL also publishes quarterly the Journal of Energy & Natural Resources Law (editor Don C Smith and an editorial advisory board, comprising members of AAG), available at

World Initiative of Mining Lawyers (WIOML) 4th Annual Conference, Sintra, Portugal: 27–28 June 2018

WIOML was founded in 2014 by a group of leading mining lawyers in Europe and the Americas. Established as a membership organisation, WIOML aims to advance its members’ knowledge of mineral regulation worldwide by providing a global forum for the discussion and debate of legal issues faced by the mining industry today. WIOML is currently managed by an advisory board formed of representatives who have a diverse geographic distribution, covering all continents of the world, including individuals from Anglo American, Glencore, Newmont, IAMGOLD, Nordgold and the University of Western Australia.

Each year WIOML brings together leading professionals, academics and policy-makers, allowing delegates to exchange ideas and debate and discuss issues related to mineral exploration and mining, while forming and strengthening professional relationships across a global network. To date, the event has taken place in various locations throughout Europe including London (UK), Chantilly (France) and Toledo (Spain). As part of its mission, WIOML works to pass on the knowledge of senior industry experts by providing financial support for students of Dundee University’s Mineral Law and Policy LLM to attend the event each year. Information about WIOML and upcoming conferences can be obtained at

This year’s event in Portugal provides those attending with access to a range of sessions covering local community engagement; human rights; mining law and policy reviews; engineering, procurement and construction management contracts; financing and joint ventures; fiscal management and risk; antitrust updates; listings on public markets; and shipping. The conference provided a unique gathering, featuring high-quality and distinguished speakers in a relaxed and welcoming environment.

Rocky Mountain Mineral Law Foundation (RMMLF) 64th Annual Institute, Victoria, Canada: 19–21 July 2018

RMMLF (or the Foundation), based in Denver, Colorado, is a collaborative, educational, non-profit organisation dedicated to the scholarly and practical study of laws and regulations relating to mining, oil and gas, energy, public lands, water, environmental and international law. Through its educational programmes, it brings together lawyers, landmen, managers, consultants, government personnel, law faculty, students and others involved in minerals, oil and gas, water and other resources.

The Foundation is known for its high-quality educational offerings, which include:

This year the annual institute will be in Victoria, British Columbia and will open with a general session on the first day. For the remainder of the conference, those attending can choose among the mining, oil and gas, water, public lands, environmental, international and landman’s sections. This year’s programme chair is David Deisley, executive VP and General Counsel, NovaGold Resources Inc, Salt Lake City, Utah, US.

The mining presentations will include: the ‘Annual US Mining and Public Land Law Update’; the ‘Evolution of the Deal – Trending Contractual Terms in a Changing Market’; ‘Your Feasibility Study Is Done and the Next Step Is Project Development – What Is the Most Appropriate Construction Contract Model to Develop Your Project?’; and ‘Critique of the New (RMMLF) Form 5 LLC – An In-Depth Examination of its Workability, Enforceability, and Portability’. The mining programme co-chairs are Khaled Abdel-Barr, Lawson Lundell, Vancouver, BC, Canada and Karol Kahalley, Holland & Hart, Denver, Colorado, US.

Also of interest to mining practitioners is the international sessions consisting of: ‘Trends in Human Rights Law that Every Natural Resources Lawyer Should Know’; ‘Preparing for the Doomsday Scenario – Proving (and Collecting) Damages in International Investment Arbitration’; and ‘Corruption – An Effective Government Defense in International Arbitration?’. The international section co-chairs are Carlos Vilhena, Pinheiro Neto, Brasilia, Brazil and Cynthia Urda Kassis, Shearman & Sterling, New York, US.

International Bar Association (IBA) Annual Conference, Rome, Italy: 7–12 October 2018

At this year’s conference in Rome, the IBA Mining Law Committee has planned or is co-sponsoring a number of sessions. First, a Monday session, ‘The ever-increasing challenges to infrastructure development and financing in the resource and energy sectors’, will address the common issues and pitfalls in the resource sector (mining, oil and gas, water and power) and the large infrastructure sector (transport, pipelines, transmission, water treatment and port facilities) that have faced many challenges over the past decade.

Next, on Tuesday, the session ‘Avoiding and cleaning up the mess: the environmental law ramifications of decommissioning mines’ will discuss the legal implications of the promise of rehabilitation; the triggering of performance obligations in the decommissioning phase of the mine’s life; planning for decommissioning to minimise costs; and the legal and policy settings necessary to achieve the best outcomes.

The Wednesday programme offers two interesting panels:

  • ‘Changes in national laws that may undermine mining development agreements: remedies for investors’ will debate situations where the imposition of new legislation contradicts existing mining development agreements (eg, a new law that calls for a review and renegotiation of existing mining development agreements and/or does not allow for dispute settlement to be via foreign dispute settlement bodies) and the issues that could arise between international law and local law; and
  • ‘Climate change litigation: who if anyone should be liable? Is litigation the answer?’ – climate change litigation is increasingly being used as a tool in the global struggle against climate change. Some litigation is directed at governments to uphold their responsibilities under national constitutions and laws or international conventions such as the Paris Agreement, while other suits aim at making oil and gas or other companies pay damages. This session will present the latest worldwide developments and representatives of energy companies, public interest groups and others will discuss the merits of this litigation and whether it is beneficial in combating climate change.

Last, on the Thursday, there is a presentation entitled ‘Impact of international economic sanctions to the mining sector and how to manage risks’. Economic sanction regimes can have a significant impact on exploration and production activities of mining firms and related service providers. Depending on the particular sanctions programme, prohibitions may range from a comprehensive embargo on all trade with a country or government, including state-owned enterprises, to more targeted restrictions that penalise dealings with certain persons (ie, individuals, entities or vessels), which could be customers, suppliers, service providers, subcontractors, employees, operators or other business partners. This session will review existing sanction programmes of the principal sanctioning authorities (UN, EU and US) and explore how the risks created by those programmes can be most effectively managed. That same day, a session ‘The EU Raw Materials Initiative: an update on metallic minerals’ will examine how the European Union Raw Materials Initiative responds to the different challenges related to access to raw materials (non-energy and non-agricultural) in relation to metallic minerals: the fair and sustainable supply of raw materials from global markets; and the sustainable supply of raw materials within the EU. The panel will explore views from promoters, expert consultants and mining companies.

Information about the IBA’s annual conference can be obtained at

RMMLF Special Institute on International Mining and Oil and Gas Law, Development, and Investment, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil: 10–12 April 2019
Dubbed ‘RIO2’ (a previous RMMLF international conference was held there in 2011), this will be the 15th biennial event organised in cooperation with the IBA’s SEERIL and Latin American Regional Forum. RIO2 will address a broad range of important legal and investment-related issues for attorneys, companies, governments and others involved in international natural resource development. At the time of writing, the Foundation has established five committees (steering, mining, oil and gas, environmental and CSR/sustainability and host) comprising lawyers from around the world to help plan events and to seek paper topics. All sessions will be available in English, Spanish and Portuguese. The RIO2 programme chair is Ignacio Randle from Estudio Randle, Buenos Aires, Argentina with support from vice-chair Michael Bourassa from Fasken, Toronto, Canada.

Registration and programme information can be obtained at

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