Chambers notes Canadian presence in Latin American mining sector – by Drew Hasselback (National Post – October 26, 2011)

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Macleod Dixon LLP’s pending merger with Norton Rose OR LLP addresses a couple of lingering questions.

The first is why Norton Rose had merged with Ogilvy Rénault LLP, and not someone else. The British firm’s stated goal was to link with a Canadian firm in the oil patch, and Ogilvy Rénault’s office in Calgary was at the time relatively new. The second is whom Norton Rose would target next. The British firm hinted it was looking at Latin America because of its interest in the resource business, but specifics were wanting.

Now it’s all starting to make sense. Macleod Dixon joins Norton Rose on Jan. 1, 2012 to create a new firm called Norton Rose Canada. The Calgary-based firm brings with it a long history in the oil patch and a book of resource files. It also comes with offices in Bagota, Colombia, and Caracas, Venezuela. You can see where the London headquarters of Norton Rose is delighted to welcome Macleod Dixon to the global fold. The deal demonstrates how Canadian resource lawyers have caught global attention.

Further evidence of this comes from the 2012 edition of Chambers South America and the Caribbean. Researchers of the venerable legal guide have picked up on Canada’s presence in the Latin American market, and have found it necessary to include a section on Canadian lawyers in the current edition (see story on FP12).

Macleod Dixon is one of eight Canadian firms profiled in the volume for its work in South America. It’s joined by a list of firms known for their extensive work in mining: Cassels Brock & Blackwell LLP, Davies Ward Phillips & Vineberg LLP, Fasken Martineau DuMoulin LLP, Heenan Blaikie LLP, McCarthy Tétrault LLP, McMillan LLP and Stikeman Elliott LLP.

Chambers notes that Macleod opened an office in Venezuela in 1997, joined an alliance with a Brazilian energy law firm in 2001 and recently set up shop in Bogota. The guide singles out Toronto-based Marvin Singer and South American-based lawyers Glenn Faass and Jorge Neher for their work.

“Having a presence here is an advantage in that we are able to provide domestic advice, which is something that other Canadian firms are not able to do,” explains Mr. Neher, who divides his time between Bogota and Caracas. “We’re a Canadian firm, but we have a strong domestic advice capability.”

Norton Rose sees the advantage of this. In addition to its own history in the Canadian mining business, Norton Rose has experience in the infrastructure world, and it sees potential in South America, says Pierre Dagenais, a lawyer with Norton Rose.

“In a lot of ways it’s very similar to the Canadian economy in that a lot of these countries, including Colombia and Venezuela, but also others like Peru, have a lot of resources,” he says. “And because these countries are growing so quickly, I think there’s huge potential for infrastructure development.”

McMillan LLP is another example of a firm which has used a merger to broaden its reach in the resource world. Last year it linked with Lang Michener LLP, whose Vancouver office had developed a large book of mining business, much of it in Latin America.

Chambers had McMillan lawyers Darrell Podowski, Laurel Petryk and Kuno Kafka write the introduction to the section. The hunt for capital goes a long way to explaining Canada’s presence in the Latin American mining world, the lawyers write. Local stock markets are neither large enough nor familiar enough with mining financings to provide Latin American companies with the liquidity they require, so they look to Canada.

As of August 2011, there were 10 Latin American companies with a total market cap of $12.9-billion listed on the Toronto Stock Exchange, and 10 companies with a market cap of $1.1-billion listed on the TSX Venture Exchange. That data doesn’t include the large number of Canadian or international mining companies that have listings in Toronto and properties and projects in Latin America.

“It ultimately comes down to where the capital is raised,” says John S.M. Turner, leader of Fasken’s global mining group. “If you’re just out of law school and you’re looking for an international practice, your best shot is to work in the Canadian resource sector.”

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