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07 Nov 2013

What was hot at AMPLA this year?

by Brett Cohen, Dan Howard, Ian Bloemendal, Tosin Aro, Joel Von Thien

AMPLA attendees were particularly interested by the international perspectives from African, Chinese and Canadian mining experts.

It was great catching up with so many familiar faces at this year's AMPLA conference in Adelaide. As always, the conference was a great success, featuring an excellent program of speakers covering a wide spectrum of issues for energy and resources sector participants. We run through some of our personal highlights from the conference below.

The China / Australia / Africa triangle

AMPLA kicked off with some fascinating observations on the so-called China/Australia/Africa triangle. Former Australian Ambassador to China, Dr Geoff Raby, talked about the impact of the Chinese leadership change and China's economic policy shift from investment to consumption. It was interesting to note how China is applying lessons it learned the hard way in Australia to some of its more recent investments in Africa. The point was also made that changes in Chinese investment strategy are creating greater demand for Australian know-how.  There was high levels of interest across this topic, including some lively corridor discussions afterward.

Greg Cochran's synopses of various uranium, copper and zinc mining projects (and related infrastructure projects) in African destinations as disparate as Zambia, Algeria and Namibia, provided a thought-provoking window on the opportunities (and hazards) of investing in Africa.

It was also refreshing to observe the growing perception that Australia and China are not competitors but can mutually benefit from investments in Africa.

Practical learning: For large-scale African investments, the importance of stabilisation agreements, project proponents' support of stabilisation agreements, structuring investments based on the influence of applicable bilateral investment treaties and the relevance of international arbitration.

Canadian shale

One of the most popular presentations of the conference was the excellent overview of Canadian shale gas given by Shawn Denstedt Q.C. It was fascinating to hear the story of how the Canadians dealt with the loss of their sole shale gas export market at the time (the United States) and how they went about developing replacement markets in Asia and the infrastructure to access such markets.

As part of this, we received insight into the legal structures the Canadians have adopted to deal with environmental issues (particularly against the backdrop of dual Federal-provincial regulations), the need for Aboriginal consultation and overcoming opposition both to the authorisation of LNG for export and to the licensing of pipeline construction and operation. It was useful to be able to contrast this with our own regulatory frameworks.

Floating LNG

Day 2's Energy Law Stream included an illuminating session on floating LNG, with a very useful explanation of the underlying technologies and supporting infrastructure. Amidst recent criticisms that FLNG projects do not create as many jobs or wider business opportunities as onshore projects, it was interesting to hear about some of the longer-term economic and competitive skills benefits, as well as anticipated project structuring options, financing options and some of the principal commercial and legal challenges facing Australian projects.

Other sessions of note

In the session on the AMPLA Model Mineral Sales Agreement, our own Brett Cohen helped talk us through the model agreement and its use in non-complex upstream wholesale non-precious minerals sales and supply arrangements.

Practical learning: In the international mineral sales environment, it remains important to appreciate the implication of the Vienna Sales Convention and how to contractually regulate the Convention's effects.

The "recent developments" session at AMPLA is always of interest and usually serves to highlight some front-of-mind regulatory issues. This year was no different. Judging from questions from the floor, the most interesting aspects seem to be the underlying changes in government policy directions which the speakers, including our own Dipesh Jasmat, discussed.

Clayton Utz partner Dan Howard also presented on a timely topic as part of the energy regulation stream "Sticker shock: Managing your electricity costs at a time of regulatory uncertainty".

We congratulate AMPLA on yet another excellent national conference (which we were again proud to sponsor).

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Clayton Utz communications are intended to provide commentary and general information. They should not be relied upon as legal advice. Formal legal advice should be sought in particular transactions or on matters of interest arising from this communication. Persons listed may not be admitted in all States and Territories.