Battered Canadian miners to face more shareholder activism – by Nicole Mordant and John Tilak (Reuters Canada – March 7, 2016)

VANCOUVER/TORONTO (Reuters) – Shareholder activism in the Canadian mining sector will gather pace this year, driven by investor fatigue after years of share price weakness and concerns about high executive pay levels and slim insider stock holdings, advisors to such situations said.

With few options left to salvage investments hit by a prolonged downturn in commodity prices, more shareholders are demanding change at miners they perceive to have strong assets but weak boards and management. Proxy advisers and lawyers said these shareholders see an opportunity to force more effective capital allocation and lower executive compensation.

An early year bounce in prices of metals like gold and silver may provide comfort to some activists who have been keen to pounce but concerned that metal prices could drop further.

“The reality is there’s some settling in the mining space,” said Amy Freedman, Canada president for Kingsdale Shareholder Services, a Toronto-based proxy solicitation firm.

“A lot of the juniors are susceptible,” she added. “They’re sitting on cash that’s not being deployed properly, there are often governance concerns and the ability to do a shakeup does not require as much capital.” Shareholder pressure for change began rising in 2015. Forty-eight mining firms globally faced public demands from activists in 2015, up from 30 in 2014, figures from London-based Activist Insight show.

In Canada, where more than half of the world’s public mining companies are listed, proxy contests in the materials sector rose by nearly a third to 17 last year, according to Kingsdale.

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