Friday, August 14, 2009

Hiring News: LLM Graduate Kevin VanDyke Begins Work at the Federal Mine Safety and Health Review Commission

Kevin VanDyke (LLM graduate May 2008) has started work as an attorney advisor for two administrative law judges at the Federal Mine Safety and Health Review Commission in Denver.

The Commission is an independent adjudicative agency that hears cases under the U.S. Mine Safety and Health Act of 1977. The cases are primarily between the operators of mines and the U.S. Department of Labor via the Mine Safety and Health Administration.

Among his responsibilities are to draft decisions, research and write memoranda on issues that will be coming before the Commission's administrative law judges in future hearings, and analyze post-hearing briefs.

Kevin took a special interest in mining law while he was in the program, and during his studies at DU was a legal intern for Paul Schlauch and Bob Bassett -- who are adjunct professors teaching International Mining Law in the graduate program -- at Holland & Hart in Denver. I am certain that Kevin's experience working with Mr. Schlauch and Mr. Bassett, two internationally respected mining lawyers, will serve him well in his new position.

And by the way, Kevin, a native of Kansas City, Mo., is an expert on all things related to Notre Dame athletics (and pretty close to an expert on all things related to the University of Kansas!). For the record, Kevin is a graduate of Notre Dame, but had many friends who attended Kansas.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

The Graduate Class of 2009: The Most Diverse Class Ever

This week, Lucy Daberkow, assistant program director, and I have welcomed the incoming class of August 2009. And what a class it is:
  • It is the highest academic achieving class we have ever admitted.
  • Class members, as a whole, are the most experienced of any group admitted to the graduate program.
  • And perhaps best of all, the new class, when combined with the continuing students who began in January 2009, represents 12 countries. Thus, this class represents the most diverse group of students we have had at one time in the graduate program. Below you will see the "parade of flags," from the nations represented in our class of 2009.
It is also worth noting that in addition to the 12 countries represented in this year's class, the program also has graduates from the following countries:
  • Republic of Cameroon
  • Canada
  • Republic of Ecuador
  • Mongolia
  • Papua New Guinea
  • Peru
  • Russia
  • Spain
  • Swiss Confederation
  • Venezuela
In total 22 countries have had (or currently have now) students in the graduate program. All of us at DU are extremely proud of all of our students -- both from foreign countries as well as the United States.

We also want to thank Noemi Nunez (May 2009 LLM graduate) and Bridger Penttila (December 2009 prospective MRLS graduate) for their help in the orientation. Also a tip of our collective hats to Sheila Green, Jessica Hogan, Mike Latimer, Joan Policastri, Joan Pope, Prof. Mary Steffel, Prof. Ann Vessels, Eric Vincent, and Saul Wiley.

Transmission Challenges Related to Integrating More Renewables Into the Grid

If you are interested in green energy issues, then one topic that has to be at the top of your list is electricity transmission. In brief, the country's electricity grid is simply not up to the task of handling the integration of large amounts of renewable energy. This is a critical issue for the further development and deployment of renewables.

PBS "Now" TV show highlighted some of the key issues in last Friday's program. Be sure to check out "Power Struggle: Find Out Why the Green Energy Dream May Not Happen."

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

New "Welcome to Our Program" Video Unveiled

From time-to-time we feature some of our graduates, professors, and friends of the program in a video feature called "Welcome to Our Program." In the short video, the individuals provide their own personal welcoming greetings to students and friends of the DU graduate program.

Click here to see the most recent version of the "Welcome" video (when you get to the page, in the middle of the screen you will see "Click Here to See Welcome Video").

Many thanks to:
  • Jared Hayes-Mazzocco, Masters of Resource Law Studies graduate May 2009
  • Noemi Nunez, LLM graduate May 2009
  • Tonye Oki, LLM graduate May 2005
  • Catherine Keske, Ph.D., Adjunct Professor
  • Kate Marks, Masters of Resource Law Studies graduate May 2009

Photo Collage of "Comparative Latin American Mining Law" Course

The short course, "Comparative Latin American Mining Law," has received a great deal of attention from the students in the course, other students at DU who were not able to take the course this time, as well as others outside the DU law school. I blogged about the course on the third and fifth days of the five day course, which was held Aug. 3-7.

To give you some idea of the engaging approach encouraged by Florencia Heredia and Luis Carlos Rodrigo, our adjunct professors from respectively Buenos Aires, Argentina and Lima, Peru, I've assembled a photo collage about the week. Click here to share some of the "flavor" of the course.

Meanwhile, here are just two pictures from the wonderful home cities of Ms. Heredia and Mr. Rodrigo. The top photo was taken in Buenos Aires in mid June 2008. The bottom photo was taken in late June 2008, looking south along the Pacific coastline of Lima. Both cities are among the world's most beautiful and interesting. You definitely should visit both. (And as a footnote, I did not even scratch the surface of everything these two great countries have to offer in terms of geography, culture, and history.) For those in the northern hemisphere it is worth remembering that June is "equivalent" weather-wise to what we experience in December.

On my trip to Latin America in June 2008 (when I first met Ms. Heredia and Mr. Rodrigo) the weather was a mix of sun and clouds/fog. It was not always sunny in Buenos Aires (as the picture might suggest) nor was it always cloudy in Lima.

Wonderful countries, friendly and perceptive people, two fascinating parts of the world to be sure.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Paul Schlauch, International Mining Law Adjunct Professor, Named "Mining Lawyer of the Year"

Paul Schlauch, adjunct professor of International Mining Law at DU, has been named Mining Lawyer of the Year 2009 for the fifth consecutive year.

Mr. Schlauch, a partner at the Denver office of Holland & Hart, was awarded the honor in the Who's Who in Legal Awards. Callum Campbell, editor in chief of the publication, said, "No one else has ever won this award, and the consistent positive feedback we received recognizes Paul Schlauch's exceptional level of performance, and service to clients. We have no hesitation in once again declaring him the leading lawyer for mining expertise."

The many students who have been taught by Mr. Schlauch and I can attest to his pre-eminent level of experience and expertise. His colleagues around the world have enormous respect for him and his work.

We at DU are delighted that he has been and continues to be a trusted and important part of our program, and we salute this great honor.

(As many of you know, Paul's co-teacher is another student favorite Robert Bassett, also of Holland & Hart and a greatly respected lawyer in his own right.)

Monday, August 10, 2009

New Course Involving "Community Expectations for Sustainable Development in Natural Resource Development Projects" Begins

Today saw the launch of a new short course, "Community Expectations for Sustainable Development in Natural Resource Development Projects," being offered by the graduate program.

The intensive one-week course is aimed at introducing students to the very real issue of how natural resource development projects can be undertaken with the acceptance of the local community in which the work is being done. The course is being taught by two well-known figures in this area, Luke Danielson and Cecilia Dalupan, both attorneys and principals at the Sustainable Development Resources Group.

Mr. Danielson, who was the project director of the seminal report "Mining, Minerals and Sustainable Development," published by the International Institute for Environment and Development, began today's session by saying that the "number one issue in the world today in terms of natural resources development is community resistance." In his mind, if a community is against a project the project will not be worth pursuing.

He pointed to the fact that despite what one might think about mining copper, for instance, the developed world relies heavily on copper as an electrical conductor. In the U.S. there are 400 pounds of copper per capita while in the poorer countries of Africa and Asia the amount is less than one pound per capita. And yet, "you see the very real difference that electrification can make to people."

However, with a lack of copper, electrification is not possible. "If we were to get enough copper to people living on $1 a day so they could have a basic minimum amount of electricity, do we have enough copper? The answer is certainly no," he said, thus making the point that the development of additional copper resources is a must if the world is to spread the benefits of electrification to those in poor countries. In summary he said, "It's really hard to argue we don't need more copper."
He also pointed out that the information revolution has altered the relationship between firms doing mining and the communities in which the mining takes place. "If people are unhappy now with a project, we learn about it in real time. So many communities are now 'empowered' through the Internet to explain their side of the story," he said.

In summary, Mr. Danielson noted that the developed world's firms "profoundly affect" the communities in which they operate and that the communities where they operate can profoundly affect these same firms.

As the week evolves, Ms. Dalupan will present on various topics including "Indigenous and Traditional Cultures" and "Indigenous People and Ancestral Land."

The course will also involve a series of "guest lecturers" who will comment on various aspects of the underlying issues.

This course represents another example of how the College of Law curriculum reflects the very real -- and often vexing -- issues that are at the heart of natural resources development. On one hand, as Mr. Danielson so clearly explained, there is a crying need for various types of minerals if living and economic conditions in the developing world are to improve. On the other hand, as he also pointed out, major development projects can disrupt and even cause the disappearance of some communities.

As Mr. Danielson and Ms. Dalupan set out in the syllabus to the course, the stakes could not be higher:
Through much of human history, we were not overly concerned about whether natural resource development was good for local populations, or whether they liked it. Indeed, in some places and times, mining was done by conquered people forced into slavery. The fundamental issues in the industry were geological (finding minerals, timber or oil; and gas), or in the case of dam development, finding good hydroelectric sites; engineering (learning the physical processes to produce and obtain the resources efficiently) and processing (finding more useful products and more diverse and creative ways to use resources). The social, cultural, and environmental dimensions, and the local economic impact, were in the back seat, and whether local people felt they were receiving benefits was rarely considered an issue.

By contrast, we are now at a point where local opinion is extremely important. Whether local people accept and want natural resource development is at the top of the list of issues in the natural resource industries. Our growing world population and the demand for a higher standard of living have created an unprecedented demand for materials and energy. The different avenues of communication in this Internet age make it more and more possible for local developments, voices, and stories to reach a wider and even global audience, which has profoundly changed the way development occurs.

At the same time, the increasing number of people in the world makes it harder to find places that minerals and energy can be produced in the “wide open spaces,” and are forcing us to produce natural resources as more immediate neighbors to local communities.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

First of Its Kind "Comparative Latin American Mining Law" Course Finishes With Mining Case Study

The first course of its kind in a U.S. law school -- "Comparative Latin American Mining Law" -- taught by two of Latin America's premier mining law attorneys came to a close last Friday afternoon. The course, which began early last Monday morning, consisted of five seven-and-one-half hour days as well as reading and writing assignments taking place before, during, and now after the course.

The course, which attracted JD, LLM and Master of Resource Law Studies students from the U.S. and abroad, reflects the Sturm College of Law's commitment to bringing cutting-edge courses to our students and providing them a chance to learn from some of the world's best law practitioners.

The course was unique for several reasons. First, as mentioned above, the course was taught by two Latin American attorneys, Florencia Heredia of HOLT Abogados in Buenos Aires, Argentina and Luis Carlos Rodrigo of Estudio Rodrigo Elias & Medrano in Lima, Peru. Ms. Heredia and Mr. Rodrigo are widely considered among the best mining lawyers in the world as reflected in their membership on the prestigious Trustees at Large Council of the Rocky Mountain Mineral Law Foundation. In addition, both hold high-level positions with the Mining Law Committee of the International Bar Association.

Each and every day, these two leaders are working with firms and clients in South America, North America, Europe, and China. They have earned the respect of their peers, and it was for this reason that we sought them out to teach this course (and were delighted when they agreed to do so).

Why Latin American mining law? Well, there are many reasons, but let me share two. First, Peru is a global mining leader, which produces more silver than any country in the world and is second in copper. Second, Argentina is at the beginning stages of significant mining development, with a great deal of the Andes region in the western part of the country still relatively unexplored but holding great promise for significant mining activity.

With China and India (as well as others) in the relative beginning stages of development, it is reasonable to conclude that the pursuit of minerals will only increase. Looked at another way, residents in North America, the European Union, and Japan make up less than 1 billion people; China and India together represent a population nearing 2.5 billion.

And what did Ms. Heredia and Mr. Rodrigo teach about? Many, many topics that are fundamental to mining development in Latin America (and elsewhere for that matter) including:
  • An overview of the mining industry in each country
  • Legal regimes in both countries
  • Legal and regulatory frameworks
  • Mining granting authorities
  • Mining concessions
  • Royalty agreements
  • Financing
  • Political risks
  • Stabilization agreements
  • Community relations
Course sessions were filled with descriptions of how each country's mining sector works as well as many questions and answers. Students actively participated in each session.

The week-long intensive course was capped by a Friday afternoon "simulation" in which four groups of students participated in a role play involving a case study written by the professors. The four groups were: the company, government, NGOs, and the community. Ms. Heredia and Mr. Rodrigo played the role of the financiers of a hypothetical project. Each group presented its position relative to the development of a mine in an environmentally sensitive area. The professors asked questions of each group, probing to find how the role players would react to real questions from a financial institution.

The project, which included a Thursday afternoon and evening preparation by each group, allowed everyone a chance to individually and collectively reflect on all they had heard and learned over the week. Afterwards, Mr. Rodrigo and Ms. Heredia provided observations about each group's presentation.

"The presentations were excellent," Mr. Rodrigo said. "I was very impressed by the work of each group," Ms. Heredia said.

The level of interaction between the professors and the students was excellent, and it achieved an objective that I had hoped for: a chance for students to learn in a formal but relaxed setting from two of the world's best. Moreover, I have a sincere feeling that many students were inspired by what they heard and observed.

At the very end of the class, Ms. Heredia and Mr. Rodrigo were greeted by a rousing round of applause. It's difficult to beat a learning atmosphere that is challenging, engaging, fun, and cutting-edge. This course represented all of these elements and more.

It was my immense pleasure to help organize the course and play a very small role (and I do mean small!) in carrying it out. Muchisimas gracias a nuestros professors, Florencia Heredia y Luis Carlos Rodrigo! Nos vemos en Denver pronto, esperamos. (Many, many thanks to our professors! We hope to see you again soon in Denver.)