Mining 2016: Analysis

In our latest edition of Who's Who Legal: Mining we identify 407 practitioners from 248 law firms across 61 countries.

Fasken Martineau DuMoulin, our six-time mining law firm of the year, once again excels with 13 standout individuals hailing from its Canadian offices, as well as from London and Sandton.

McCarthy Tétrault, Blake Cassels & Graydon, Stikeman Elliott, Cassels Brock & Blackwell and Bennett Jones are also among the leading Canadian firms in mining.

Demonstrating its thorough global reach, Norton Rose Fulbright earns recognition in an unparalleled 11 jurisdictions.

Baker Botts, Holland & Hart and Davis Graham & Stubbs are distinguished for their highly prominent position in the US market.

In South America, Peru’s Rodrigo Elías & Medrano Abogados, Argentina’s Marval O’Farrell & Mairal, Chile’s Carey and Brazil’s Pinheiro Neto are marked out for their excellence.

Elsewhere, Australia’s Clayton Utz has “a first-class” energy and natural resources practice; Webber Wentzel is pre-eminent in South Africa; and Mayer Brown’s London office is “absolutely top-tier”.

We also recommend the top 10 practitioners both from the northern and the southern hemispheres in this section.


Most Highly Regarded Individuals
Northern Hemisphere
Michael Bourassa Fasken Martineau DuMoulin, Toronto
Jay Kellerman Stikeman Elliott, Toronto
Darrell Podowski Cassels Brock & Blackwell, Vancouver
Roger Taplin McCarthy Tétrault, Vancouver
Richard Miner McCarthy Tétrault, Vancouver
Cynthia Urda Kassis Shearman & Sterling, New York
Robert Bassett Holland & Hart, Denver
Joel Benson Davis Graham & Stubbs, Denver
Ian R Coles Mayer Brown, London
David Glennie Blake Cassels & Graydon, London
Southern Hemisphere
Florencia Heredia HOLT Abogados, Buenos Aires
Ignacio Randle Estudio Randle, Buenos Aires
Luis Lucero Marval O’Farrell & Mairal, Buenos Aires
Rafael Vergara Carey, Santiago
Carlos Pérez-Cotapos Cariola Díez Pérez-Cotapos & Cia, Santiago
Luis Carlos Rodrigo Prado Rodrigo Elías & Medrano Abogados, Lima
Carlos Vilhena Pinheiro Neto Advogados, Brasília
Geoff Simpson Allen & Overy, Perth
Peter Wiese Clayton Utz, Perth
Peter Leon Herbert Smith Freehills, Johannesburg

Norton Rose Fulbright dominates our international listings with an unrivalled 19 individuals across 11 separate countries. The global head of infrastructure, mining and commodities Nick Merritt is strongly endorsed for his practice advising on the development, financing and acquisition of mining assets. Sources praise his “technical and commercial mind”. In Johannesburg, head of mining Michael Dale is “a fount of knowledge” in relation to mining law; he is particularly well known for providing regulatory advice to major local and international mining houses. In London, global head of business Martin McCann is an “internationally recognised finance lawyer”, with a long-standing practice advising lenders and sponsors in mine financing and restructuring. In Canada, Marvin Singer has extensive experience in acting for mining clients in relation to acquisitions, financings and project development, especially in the emerging markets. He is praised for his “practical, efficient and no-nonsense approach”. In Bogotá, Jorge Neher has a “very prominent” Latin American mining practice, according to sources. He advises both major and junior mining houses on corporate, finance and regulatory matters. Head of Beijing Yi Wang is an experienced cross-border M&A practitioner. She has “an excellent understanding of the mining industry in the region” and she is also described as “responsive, with an eye for detail”. In Almaty, Yerzhan Kumarov specialises in mining and infrastructure financing, as well as regulatory advice. “He knows his stuff,” notes one source. “He is a valuable resource in the region.”

Fasken Martineau DuMoulin, our six-time mining law firm of the year, once again excels with 13 standout individuals hailing from its Canadian offices, as well as London and South Africa. Michael Bourassa receives universally high praise for his practice, with one peer claiming, “He is, unequivocally, one of the best mining lawyers of the last decade.” Bourassa has particular expertise in commercial agreements and due diligence issues in mining and mineral exploration. John Turner is the leader of the firm’s global mining group. He acts for issuers and underwriters in large corporate finance and M&A transactions involving mining companies active throughout Africa, Latin America and eastern Europe. Sources state that he is “a true leader in his field” and “an excellent client partner”. Charles Higgins is extensively experienced in joint ventures, M&A and debt transactions for mining companies. According to one respondent, “He is exactly the type of lawyer you want working on complex and demanding transactions.” The “excellent” Josh Lewis is the coordinator of Fasken’s global mining group and he has a broad international and domestic corporate and commercial mining practice. “He has a robust and highly-thought-of financing practice,” claims one source. Paul Fornazzari is rated highly for his corporate, commercial and securities law expertise in the mining sector. The firm also has a leading presence in South Africa. Tanneke Heersche acts on all aspects of the development and financing of mining. She is regularly referred to as “one of the best mining lawyers in Africa”. Andrew Mitchell also comes highly recommended for his “dedicated and well-rounded” mining law practice.

McCarthy Tétrault boasts several of Canada’s best-known mining lawyers. Roger Taplin, co-head of the global mining group, focuses on M&A and securities transactions. He is described as “an absolute superstar” and “someone I would recommend without hesitation”. Fellow co-head Brian Graves advises on M&A, corporate finance, commercial and securities law matters. He is distinguished for his “highly creative and commercially minded approach”. Richard Miner is referred to as “a class apart” and, in the words of one source, “one of the best transactional lawyers I have ever worked with”. He has extensive experience in domestic and international finance and M&A transactions for mining clients.

Blake Cassels & Graydon is “one of the destinations of choice” for high-value M&A and corporate finance transactions due to its excellent depth of experience: practitioners are listed in offices across Canada, as well as in New York and London. In Vancouver, Andrew McLeod has extensive experience in capital market and corporate finance transactions with an emphasis on the mining industry. He is praised as “first-class” and “a cut above the competition”. Bob Wooder is recommended in particular for his “impressive” M&A practice. He has worked on a number of eye-catching deals over the years, including Capstone’s acquisition of the Pinto Valley mine for $650 million. In London, David Glennie is “an exceptional transactional lawyer” in the natural resources space. He is a “definite inclusion”, recommended for his “deep knowledge and skill”. In New York, Geoffrey Belsher is experienced in an array of M&A and corporate finance deals for mining clients. He is “a committed dealmaker” who “builds an excellent rapport with his clients”.

Baker Botts has a strong group of experienced and highly regarded practitioners based in its Houston, Beijing and Washington, DC offices. In Houston, Hugh Tucker heads the global projects department. His practice focuses on transactions, including acquisition, divestitures, joint ventures and project development and financing. “He is an immensely good negotiator and a strong dealmaker,” say sources. David Powers is highly recommended for his project development and finance practice in the resources sector, which is described as “extremely good”. In Washington, DC, James Baker IV has acted on a number of significant international mining transactions. Clients comment that he has “a good understanding of the industry” and “offers practical and effective solutions in difficult circumstances”. In Beijing, Jeff Layman is considered a “go-to lawyer” for project development and financing in the region. He has “excellent insight into the Chinese market” and is “a responsive and practical counsel”.

Bennett Jones’ lawyers are often cited by market sources as being among the leading figures in Canada. Six lawyers are selected from its “outstanding” Toronto office. This includes the widely recommended Eden Oliver, who is dedicated to transactional and advisory work, as well as related regulatory issues in the mining industry. She is very popular among clients for her “vast experience and high quality of work”. Michael Melanson has “a great practice” and offers “excellent counsel” on corporate and securities law for clients in the mining sector. John Sabine is “a veteran” transactional lawyer in the mining industry and is held up as “a figure of long-standing significance and respect”. One source notes, “His presence on a transaction is very reassuring.”

Holland & Hart is distinguished for its highly prominent position in the US market, offering market-leading advice on the full spectrum of mining operations. In Colorado, Robert Bassett is one of the standout individuals in our research, garnering widespread praise from across the global market. He is often referred to as “the doyen of mining law in the US”. In DC, Steven Barringer is “the go-to guy” for regulatory, risk-avoidance and clean-up requirement advice. In the Salt Lake City office, the “excellent” John Davis III provides “comprehensive legal counsel” in transactional and compliance matters on federal, tribal, private, and state lands.

Peru’s Rodrigo Elías & Medrano Abogados is consistently marked out for the excellence of its service and its unrivalled level of activity in the market. Luis Carlos Rodrigo Prado is referred to as “the best lawyer in Peru and one of the very best in Latin America”. Clients note, “His deep knowledge of legal issues and the market is communicated clearly, and he always provides answers to complex legal issues.” Oscar Benavides “is outstanding”. He is very active and often engaged in the largest and most complex mining transactions in the region.

Stikeman Elliott performs strongly with listings in Vancouver, Toronto and Sydney. Among the most highly regarded lawyers in our research is the firm’s Toronto managing partner and co-head of the global mining group, Jay Kellerman. He is described “an outstanding mining practitioner”, especially in respect to securities and M&A law; in the words of one source, “He is a complete superstar.” In Sydney, fellow co-head Quentin Markin specialises in corporate finance and securities, with a focus on cross-border transactions across Canada, Australia and Africa. He garners numerous recommendations based on his “distinguished” and “very active” position in the market.

Clayton Utz has “a first-class” energy and natural resources practice, whose partners are extensively experienced in the financing and development of mining projects. Peter Wiese is “at the top of the mining tree”. Sources describe him as “a highly sophisticated practitioner” with “strong commercial instincts” and “an excellent understanding of the industry”. National leader of the energy and natural resources practice Stuart MacGregor has an expansive practice advising mining houses on M&A, joint ventures and regulation in the Pacific, the Americas and India. Sources describe him as “very practical” and “an insightful source of advice”.

Cassels Brock & Blackwell is home to six leading lawyers, including “luminary” Darrell Podowski. One source deems him “the best mining lawyer I have ever worked with”, adding: “He is incredibly smart with a strong sense of his clients’ commercial needs.” Erik Goldsilver is “a very knowledgeable mining lawyer”, according to clients. His expertise encompasses all commercial and corporate aspects in the financing, development and operation of mining projects, including advising on environmental and regulatory compliance matters. One peer declared, “I have a tremendous amount of confidence in his work.”

Davis Graham & Stubbs has one of the most highly esteemed natural resources practices in the US. Four lawyers are listed in its Denver headquarters. Joel Benson focuses on domestic and international debt financings, project development, acquisitions and divestitures, as well as other commercial transactions. Sources note that he is “pragmatic and is highly effective at problem-solving”, describing him as “a favourite among clients”.

At Shearman & Sterling, Cynthia Urda Kassis, our project finance lawyer of the year, is extensively experienced in the financing of large North and Latin American mining projects. Peers often note that she is among the very best lawyers they have ever worked with. In Paris, head of the firm’s Africa practice Christophe Asselineau is described as “a tremendously fine lawyer” and a specialist in mine financing and project development in Africa.

Mayer Brown’s London office is “absolutely top-tier”, gaining four listings alone. The “sensational” Ian R Coles heads the firm’s Africa and mining practice, and co-heads the project finance practice. One source states, “He is one of the most high-profile and experienced mining lawyers around,” while another adds, “It is a tough ask to find anyone else better equipped to handle complex cross-border transactions.” The firm also receives listings from its offices in Brazil and Texas.

Florencia Heredia, founding partner of HOLT Abogados, is “one of the foremost mining lawyers in Latin America”. She has extensive experience advising international and domestic financing institutions and companies in complex mining transactions in Argentina. Sources describe her as “a natural dealmaker” and “an all-round brilliant lawyer”.

Ignacio Randle, founding partner of Estudio Randle, is considered “an exceptional and universally respected” practitioner in the mining sector. His practice covers all commercial and corporate aspects of mining transactions, as well as related tax, regulatory and compliance matters.

Marval O’Farrell & Mairal has a strong Buenos Aires office with three listings, headed by Luis Lucero, who clients credit with “a prominent international standing”. His “strong knowledge of mining law” and experience of some of the region’s biggest mining projects is a “valuable asset to mining companies”.

Carey is known for its prominence in the Chilean market and the firm receives three listings. Rafael Vergara is the top-ranking lawyer in Chile and one of the very best in Latin America, according to our research. He is described as “a real mining lawyer, who knows the ins and outs of the sector better than anyone”.

Cariola Díez Pérez-Cotapos & Cia is also a top-tier firm in the Chilean market. Mining practice head Carlos Pérez-Cotapos has been a prominent figure in major M&A and project finance transactions in the industry. Clients note, “He has a diverse range of skills outside his comprehensive and expert understanding of the Chilean market. He is business-savvy, approachable and quickly grasps the issue at hand, then proposes options.”

As the head of Pinheiro Neto’s mining practice, Carlos Vilhena acts for mining companies on their corporate, commercial, regulatory and compliance issues. He is often the “first port of call” in Brazil for his “vast experience and excellent network of contacts”, as well as his “high standard of work”. Alongside him, Adriano Drummond Trindade is also highly recommended.

Webber Wentzel is praised for having one of the best mining practices in South Africa, garnering three listings in total. Department head Manus Booysen is also widely classed as “a top-tier international mining lawyer”. His mining practice encompasses both transactional and regulatory issues.

Herbert Smith Freehills' Peter Leon is described as “world-class” and “very knowledgeable in mining law and regulatory issues”. According to one respondent, “He is the best guy to turn to for advice in the region.”

Allen & Overy’s global head of mining Geoff Simpson garners praise from sources around the world for his “outstanding” practice. He advises on a wide range of matters in the sector including M&A, projects, corporate advisory and equity capital markets matters. Sources note that “he is well-established in the market as one of the leading mining practitioners worldwide”. The firm receives two further listings in Tokyo and Singapore.

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Nominees have been selected based upon comprehensive, independent survey work with both general counsel and private practice lawyers worldwide. Only specialists who have met independent international research criteria are listed.

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