Sept/Oct 2012

Mining law magnate

Fasken’s Michael Bourassa three-time lawyer of the year

By Virginia Heffernan

If this year’s mining lawyer of the year recipient Michael Bourassa could give young lawyers establishing a career in mining one piece of advice, it would be to join as many industry associations as possible.

“Get to know people in the industry, not just the other lawyers, but the geologists,” says Bourassa, a partner at Toronto-based Fasken Martineau, who has been named Who’s Who Legal’s Mining Lawyer of the Year for three years running.

Bourassa says his involvement with organizations, such as CIM and PDAC, is one of the most satisfying aspects of his career and helps him understand what makes exploration and mining stakeholders tick. He sits on PDAC’s Board of Directors and is vice-chair of the International Bar Association’s mining law committee.

His dedication to these organizations, expertise in case work, and extensive network of international contacts place Bourassa as a leader among his peers. When polled by Who’s Who Legal, one respondent characterized him as a “force of nature in the mining world.”

Bourassa is an expert in commercial agreements, including joint venture, royalties and options. He has extensive experience in due diligence for title, technical matters and environmental risk, and he has written articles on corporate social responsibility trends in the industry – many of which have appeared in CIM Magazine.

“We canvass private practice lawyers of repute in the field, as well as general counsel, in all the major jurisdictions to identify a select group of practitioners clients and peers consider pre-eminent in the area,” Who’s Who Legal’s assistant editor Richard Woolley explained. “We attempt to provide an accurate snapshot of those lawyers who are particularly active and have impressed respondents over the past year to 18 months.”

Speaking from a hotel room in the Austrian capital of Vienna, where he was vacationing in June, Bourassa told CIM Magazine that the most interesting deal he recently stickhandled was the joint venture between Adriana Re­sources and WISCO, one of the major subsidiaries of China’s Wuhan Iron & Steel group. The deal gives WISCO a 60 per cent interest in Adriana’s Lac Otelnuk iron ore property in Nunavik, Quebec and a 20 per cent interest in Adriana in exchange for $120 million.

“It’ll probably be the largest iron ore project in Canada once it’s built and it’s an example of how China is working with Canadian companies to acquire and develop major assets,” says Bou­rassa who was negotiating on behalf of Adriana for almost a year. “It was a complex deal in terms of how we managed to structure it and there were several lawyers involved.”

Bourassa has come a long way from his prairie roots. Born into a farming family in Saskatchewan, he earned a BSc in physical geography from the University of Saskatchewan in 1976 and went on to work for Uranerz Exploration and Mining in the Athabasca uranium fields in the province’s north region.

That early industry experience made Bourassa a perfect fit for a legal job at Ontario’s Ministry of Northern Development and Mines after he graduated from the university’s law school in 1984 and was called to the Ontario Bar two years later.

He stayed with the ministry until 1990, and then took a position at Aird & Berlis. He moved to Fasken Martineau in 2003 where he is now coordinator of the firm’s global mining group.

In addition to Bourassa, eight of Fasken’s mining lawyers were listed in Who’s Who Legal 2012 including: John Turner and Charles Higgins in Toronto; Andrew Gabrielson and Josh Lewis in Vancouver; Jean Gagné in Quebec City; Thomas Wexler in London; Tanneke Heersche in Johannesburg; and Jean-Claude Petilon in Paris. 

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