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Australia > Natural resources (transactions and regulatory) > Law firm and leading lawyer rankings


Index of tables

  1. Natural resources (transactions and regulatory)
  2. Leading individuals
  3. Next Generation Partners

Leading individuals

  1. 1

Next Generation Partners

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    • Luke Nicholls - Allen & Overy

Ashurst’s broad practice comprehensively covers the sector, ‘using small, specialised teams to deliver, which ensures quality while keeping costs down’. The team regularly handles cross-border work, with recent highlights being Shane Kyriakou’s advice to gold producer Newcrest on the divestment of its 89.9% interest in the Bonikro mine in the Republic of Côte d’Ivoire, as well as Murray Wheater’s advice to Japanese trading company Sumitomo Metal Mining Oceania on the divestment of its 50% interest in the South Yamarna project in Western Australia. Paul Newman and Ben Warne advised Mitsubishi on Yancoal’s offer to acquire Mitsubishi’s 32.4% interest in the Hunter Valley operations joint venture for $710m. Asia-Pacific head of mining Lorenzo Pacitti has ‘a sharp focus on client service’ and ‘consistently impresses with the quality of his advice’. Tony Denholder provides native title advice in the resources sector. Gavin Scott left to join Norton Rose Fulbright.

Herbert Smith Freehills’ team features a number of senior practitioners, among them global head of mining Jay Leary, Ian Williams and Simon Reed. The 20-partner team has deep regulatory expertise and transactional capabilities, exemplified by its advice to Yancoal on the $2.69bn acquisition of Coal & Allied from Rio Tinto, as well as on Yancoal's $710m acquisition of Mitsubishi's 32.4% interest in the Hunter Valley Operations joint venture; Adam Strauss acted on both transactions. Notable cross-border work included Leary’s advice to Sociedad Quimica Y Minera De Chile (SQM) on its acquisition of a 50% interest in the Mt Holland lithium project in Western Australia, and subsequently on forming a joint venture with Kidman Resources. Reed assisted South Korean POSCO with its equity investment in Pilbara Minerals. Paul Branston is another name to note. Sian Newnham has been promoted to the partnership.

King & Wood Mallesons capitalises on its regional network and regularly attracts inbound work from China; it recently advised Yanzhou Coal Mining on its multibillion-dollar acquisition of Coal & Allied from Rio Tinto, and Sinomine HK on the potential $270m acquisition of the ASX-listed Tiger Resources’ mining and exploration assets in the Democratic Republic of Congo. In a very high-value transaction, Nicholas Pappas advised Glencore on its acquisition of Rio Tinto’s 82% interest in the Hail Creek coal mine, as well as on its 71% interest in the Valeria coal mine in Queensland for a combined value of $1.7bn; he also assisted the client with its $1.1bn acquisition of a 49% interest in the Hunter Valley Operations joint venture from Yancoal and Mitsubishi. A number of individuals from the 71-partner team come in for praise, particularly Craig Rogers, Scott Langford, Alan Murray and head of mining Robert Edel.

Allen & Overy’s ‘very responsive’ team possesses ‘extensive mining industry knowledge’ and regularly attracts work with an international element. It acted for EMR Capital in its $97m acquisition of an 80% interest in the Lubambe copper mine in Zambia from Africa Rainbow Minerals and Vale International, a matter lead by global head of mining Geoff Simpson, who has ‘valuable sector experience’ and ‘a great ability to influence key commercial matters’. ASX-listed Tanami Gold instructed the team in relation to the divestment of its interest in the Western Tanami project and the sale to Northern Star. The team has in-depth expertise advising on transactions with significant financing elements, a focus area for Adam Stapledon and Peter Wilkes. Meredith Campion, Goran Galic and counsel Luke Nicholls are also singled out. Key clients include Fortescue Metals Group, Rio Tinto and Resource Capital Funds.

Allens attracted a diverse range of matters acting for key clients in the sector; mining sector leader Richard Malcolmson, who heads the 46-partner team, assisted Rio Tinto in a series of divestments of its coal assets in Queensland with a combined value of $4.15bn. Other notable transactions include advice to Glencore on the potential sale of its interest in the Rolleston coal mine and in the Wiggins Island Coal Export Terminal (WICET). Additional prominent clients include BHP, Newcrest, Mineral Resources and Yancoal. Several partners come in for particular praise, among them Jodi Reinmuth, Erin Feros and Gerard Woods.

Corrs Chambers Westgarth increasingly attracts cross-border work and capitalises on its PNG office, which opened in late 2017. Michael MacGinley heads the 27-partner team, which includes coal acquisitions expert Bruce Adkins and special counsel Stuart Clague, who has a mining sector focus. Adkins assisted Peabody Energy with the sale of its Burton coal mine to New Hope and Formosa, and Robert Franklyn led advice to Gold Road Resources on its acquisition of Sumitomo Metal Mining Oceania’s 50% interest in the South Yamarna project. Cape Coal instructed the team on the sale of its subsidiary, Bowen Coking Coal, to Cabral Resources. Nick Thorne, who divides his time between Brisbane and Port Moresby, has been promoted to the partnership.

At Minter Ellison, Simon Scott heads the growing 29-partner energy and resources team, which includes the newly promoted Jordan Phillips and Bryn Davis. In a notable highlight, Scott and Phillips assisted Anglo American with the divestment of its Australian coal mining assets, and advised longstanding client Rio Tinto on its global mineral exploration collaboration with China Minmetals. Perth-based Adam Handley has a focus on inbound work from China and regularly acts for Chinese state-owned enterprises as well as private resources companies on their transactions; recent work includes advising China Hanking on its successful takeover of Primary Gold.

Clayton Utz’s substantial 27-partner practice, which is headed by Stuart MacGregor, handled a range of high-value transactions and managed to attract significant regulatory work in the sector. Rory Moriarty and Dan Howard advised private equity resources investor EMR Capital on its bid for a range of Rio Tinto coal assets, resulting in its multibillion-dollar acquisition of an 80% stake in the Kestral mine. MacGregor and Moriarty assisted a consortium including Aurizon, Macquarie and Brookfield with its $3.26bn bid for the Wiggins Island Coal Export Terminal (WICET) in Queensland; as part of the transaction Macquarie and Brookfield acquired mines owned by Glencore and Wesfarmers Curragh, which are some of the port’s contracted customers. Resources-sector restructuring forms another string to the team’s bow; it acted for administrator PPB on the $3bn restructuring of the Chinese-owned Caledon Coal. Brett Cohen is ‘very responsive and easy to deal with’ and is singled out for his ‘great technical ability’; he advised TSX-listed Copper Mountain Mining on its acquisition of all issued capital of the ASX-listed Altona Mining.

Gilbert + Tobin’s team has in-depth regulatory and transactional expertise and a strong track record of work in Africa. The team is headed by energy and resources specialist Christopher Flynn  who is highly recommended along with Michael Blakiston and Justin Little. The team is known for ‘consistently excellent service’ and features ‘key partners whose experience is second to none’. It assisted Whitehaven with its bid for Rio Tinto’s Queensland coal assets, ultimately acquiring one of three assets sold, Winchester South. Little and Justin Mannolini advised Mineral Resources on the proposed divestment by subsidiary Wodgina Lithium of up to 49% of its interest in the Wodgina Lithium project, and in a very high-value transaction the team acted for Yancoal Australia’s Independent Board Committee in the company’s $2.45b acquisition of Coal & Allied Industries from Rio Tinto. Claire Boyd, whose ‘knowledge is beyond compare’, ‘gets things done’ and is ‘a cornerstone of a continued successful practice’; Phil Edmands ‘can assess legal issues in full commercial context’, has ‘a strong understanding of regulatory and legal issues’ and ‘inspires confidence’.

McCullough Robertson has a strong track record of coal-sector work, but increasingly attracts base metal matters and is one of the few firms advising on uranium mining issues. Practice head Damien Clarke assisted Malabar Coal with its acquisition of Anglo American’s 88.17% interest in the Drayton thermal coal mine and Drayton South project as well as the acquisition of the remaining 11.83% interest from minority shareholders. Louise Horrocks assisted Bounty Mining with the purchase of the Cook Colliery coal mine and mining assets from the liquidator, involving secured creditors issues. Whitehaven Coal instructed the team on its purchase of the remaining 30% stake in its Boggabri mine in New South Wales. The 22-partner practice also includes Jim Peterson, Derek Pocock and John Kettle, and can draw on the firm’s strong workplace health and safety (WHS) and dispute resolution capabilities in the sector.

Norton Rose Fulbright ‘undoubtedly has strength-in-depth’ and gives ‘practical guidance on difficult issues’. It advised on the sale of a natural resources project in Africa to a consortium of Chinese investors. The 17-partner team is jointly headed by the ‘absolutely first-rate’ Keira Brennan, who is ‘one of the top lawyers in the mining business’, and mining sector financing expert Jake Howard. It has seen some significant arrivals with Paul Lingard, who has ‘very strong technical knowledge’ and ‘provides commercial and pragmatic legal advice’, joining from Clifford Chance, Gavin Scott from Ashurst, and Natalie Lonergan from Herbert Smith Freehills.

Baker McKenzie LLP has notable cross-border capabilities and handled a range of foreign investment and joint venture matters. CleanTeQ instructed the team in relation to an $81 million placement from Chinese conglomerate Pengxin Mining. John Mollard and Sean Duffy head the eight-partner practice, which includes Richard Lustig and Mathieu Hanaut. Darren Fooks left to join Thomson Geer.

Clifford Chance has seen the departure of practice head and global co-head of mining and metals, Paul Lingard, to Norton Rose Fulbright, but the team has grown significantly on junior level and has been attracting an interesting spread of work, such as Ben Luscombe’s advice to Rio Tinto on a cross-border regulatory investigation related to Rio Tinto Coal Mozambique. A multi-jurisdictional team assisted EVRAZ with its $354m sale of the entire issued share capital of subsidiary EVRAZ Nakhodka Trade Sea Port. Counsel Jessica Davies is also recommended.

Dentons ‘provides excellent legal support across PNG and Australia’; its very established practice ‘has performed exceedingly well over a long period of time’. Notable PNG-related work included advice to Bougainville Copper on corporate issues arising from major shareholder Rio Tinto selling its over-50% share to both the PNG government and the autonomous Bougainville government. David Perks assisted Ganfeng Lithium with acquiring a stake in the Mt Marion lithium mine. Regional head of energy and resources Kym Livesley leads the 12-partner team, which grew through the promotion of transactions lawyer Sally Weatherstone, who regularly acts for resources companies.

DLA Piper’s 16-partner team attracted a steady domestic and international deal flow, advising the SGX-listed Alliance Mineral Assets on its announced merger with the ASX-listed Tawana Resources, as well as Atlas Iron on its agreement with Mineral Resources to combine via a scheme of arrangement. Regulatory work included advising Dalrymple Bay Coal Terminal Management on access and regulatory issues. Alex Jones co-heads the global mining group out of Perth; the team includes regulatory expert Simon Uthmeyer, transactions specialist Michael Bowen and counsel Joanne Steer, who has a particular focus on advising mining sector clients. David Nancarrow left to take up a role in-house at Byrnecut Australia.

Johnson Winter & Slattery has strong national coverage; the growing 20-partner team, which is headed by John Keeves and Jee-Seon Lee, has seen the arrival of native title expert Samantha Daly from McCullough Robertson. Paul Vinci and Justin Harris advised Macmahon on its transaction with PT Amman Mineral Nusa Tenggara (AMNT) under which AMNT will award a life-of-mine mining services contract at its Indonesian Batu Hijau copper-gold mine; AMNT will sell mining equipment to a Macmahon subsidiary in exchange for shares representing a significant part of Macmahon’s issued capital. Martin Kudnig, Rick Malone, James Marshall and Peter Smith also come in for praise.

Jones Day’s ‘fantastic team’ has ‘the right mix of legal expertise and business savvy’ and is ‘thorough, but not over-the-top’. It advised Coronado Coal on its acquisition of the Curragh coal mine in Queensland from Wesfarmers, and acted for the same client on its proposed $2bn acquisition of the Hail Creek and Kestrel coal mines from Rio Tinto. Wanguo International Mining Group instructed the team on the share sale and purchase agreement for shares in AXF Gold Ridge. Practice head Andrew Smith has ‘a very good understanding of the Australian coal industry’ and is ‘not afraid to roll up his sleeves and get involved in the details’; the eight-partner practice includes Darren Murphy and of counsel Tony Wassaf.

K&L Gates’ five-partner team is led by Simon Salter, who has extensive resources sector M&A expertise, and includes the recommended Eric Fethers, Adam Levine and special counsel Chris Scott. It acted for special purpose vehicle Eastern Fields Development on its $90m hostile takeover of Finders Resources, and Veriluma instructed the team in relation to the disposal of its legacy gold assets in Western Australia. Perth-based Levine has a particular focus on capital markets work in the resources sector; he recently acted for US institutional investor firm Arena Investors on a convertible note fund arrangement for Lithium Australia.

Squire Patton Boggs focuses on cross-border coal sector transactions but regularly handles gold, lithium and base metal work. It has seen an increase in China-related work, a focus area for senior associate Tina Zhou. Simon Rear assisted Amani Gold in relation to a transaction with Hong Kong-based Luck Winner Investment to raise capital by way of a subscription for shares and options. The team also acted for MCM Mining (previously Coal of Africa) on its acquisition and disposal of various coal assets in South Africa, and advised Eastern Goldfields on a number of transactions, including a proposed cornerstone investment in Windward Resources. Rear and Margie Tannock jointly head the team.

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