Brian Dolan served as general counsel of Resource Capital Funds, a mining-focused alternative investments firm, after having been a partner at DGS. He joined DGS in June 1970 as its 33rd lawyer, and his career was heavily grounded in the oil and gas and mining sectors, buying, selling, financing, and operating properties and projects for a range of property owners, developers, and financial institutions. Following his initial retirement from DG&S at the end of 2001, Brian had a second retirement from RCF at the end of 2011.
Deborah Friedman, senior of counsel at DGS, practice focuses on securities, corporate finance, corporate governance, and domestic and international mergers and acquisitions matters for publicly traded and privately held companies, primarily in the mining and oil and gas industries. Prior to joining DGS in 1999, Ms. Friedman served in various positions in the law departments of Cyprus Amax Minerals Company and AMAX Gold Inc. for 16 years. She was general counsel and associate general counsel of Cyprus Amax and general counsel of AMAX Gold. She has also served as general counsel of Apex Silver Mines Limited and Golden Minerals Company.
You both have experience as in-house and outside counsel – how does it differ?
Brian: In-house, one tends to see projects much earlier, when they are only possibilities, resulting in an opportunity to participate in the decision whether or not and how to invest, with the added “pucker factor” of knowing personal capital is on the line. In addition, the range of responsibilities is much broader in a small organization like RCF was in the early days, and included marketing to and otherwise dealing with investors; establishing the partnership vehicles; attending to all personnel and legal issues associated with the business in addition to investments; leading political risk assessments of potential investments; dealing with investment company management and operating issues; serving on company boards; and attending to divestments.
How has the mining industry changed over the last several decades?
Several important ones come to mind:
1. There are now many more women involved in the industry, both in management and in technical (geology, engineering, etc.) roles.
2. Most of the higher-grade, more readily accessible mining deposits around the globe have already been exploited. Current projects involve lower mineral grades, more difficult metallurgy, or other processing issues, are deeper or otherwise less accessible, and are subject to greatly increased permitting and environmental regimes. As a consequence, current projects involve much longer lead times to launch, greater capital requirements to move from exploration to production, and (generally) profit margins that are much more sensitive to mine planning and operating efficiencies and capital cost management. These factors have led to a revolution in the way projects are approached – with mining companies being much more disciplined in deciding whether or not (or when) to proceed with a project. In addition, the array of tools available to optimize projects has exploded, including technical exploration sensors and processing techniques, computer-based data evaluation methods, and 3D mine planning, to name a few examples.
3. Western mining operators (and investors) are much more attentive to the ESG aspects of their projects. They now routinely apply international environmental standards to operations and reclamation planning, even when local laws (or local governments) don’t rise to that level. They often include in project costs local infrastructure improvements – power lines, roads, schools, medical clinics – where those are lacking. They utilize and train local workers in skilled crafts, and train and use local third-party suppliers of services so that when the deposit is finally exhausted, a community remains that can sustain itself.
What is your favorite memory of working at the firm?
Favorite Memories of DGS
1. Overall, not a day passed when I didn’t hear a colleague say something, or see something, that had been written by a member of the firm, or observe an approach taken by a colleague in a negotiation or controversy, that failed to make me proud to be part of the firm.
2. Sunday morning Lawyers League “touch football” at 12th and Dexter.
3. Listening to super-articulate Don Hoagland speak at partner meetings.
4. The day we elected Andrea Williams as the firm’s first female partner.
5. On a Monday morning in the early '70s, several of us junior associates watching Jim Bunch, with his back to the entrance to the coffee room, demonstrating his considerable dance moves – blocking the austere Don Graham, who he didn’t realize was standing right behind him. The junior associates melted away quickly, leaving Jim to a solo conversation with Don.
Who are some of the people at DGS that had the greatest impact on you?
Brian: DGSers Who Had the Greatest Impact on Me Clyde Martz, of course, my mentor. He was the national guru of all aspects of natural resources law, had a work ethic that I had never seen before, and was a wonderful human being. His only fault was marking up briefs held up on the car steering wheel while driving.
Don Hoagland – a role model – for his calm, effective approach to everything, who had a personal value set that led him to return to college during his sabbatical leave to complete a course on which he had received an “incomplete” grade when he left for military service in World War II.
Jim Bunch – a treasured friend, a wonderful lawyer, and a great leader.
And on fashion matters, Charles Casteel. Scene: Sometime in the '80s.
BD: “Great tie Charles, where did you get it and what did it cost?”
CC: “At that Italian men's store in Cherry Creek – it was $75.”
BD: “Wow – I’ve never spent more than $25 on a tie in my life!”
CC: “I know.”