Jen Hansen is the co-chair of the mining group at Cassels Brock & Blackwell LLP.
Recent headlines have brought a Canadian company, Teck Resources TECK-B-T, into the spotlight as the recipient of multiple offers from a foreign buyer, Swiss mining giant Glencore, with likely more to come. If you aren’t involved in the Canadian mining space or perhaps don’t consider yourself supportive of mining, you may want to start paying attention.
The acquisition of an iconic Canadian company by a foreign buyer can have a far-reaching impact. I hope that does not happen, and my desire to see Teck remain a Canadian company goes well beyond a sentimental feeling about ownership and history.
Teck produces several critical minerals important to Canada’s, and the world’s, transition to a low-carbon economy. But the company also does a lot of social good. It is a national champion supporting local communities. It is a leader in environmental, social and governance (ESG) practices. These efforts involve long-term strategy and commitment and would not be the same under a distant owner with different priorities.
As a mergers and acquisitions lawyer in the mining industry, I have participated in the (significant) consolidation in our industry and I am excited by transformative deals. However, I have also witnessed firsthand the decrease in head offices in Canada and its impact. There is more to consider in the Glencore-Teck offer than just the return for shareholders.
A direct acquisition of control of a Canadian business by a foreign one that exceeds prescribed financial thresholds (as the Teck transaction would) is subject to approval under the Investment Canada Act. The purchaser would be required to give legally binding undertakings with respect to matters in Canada, including employment, capital expenditures, management participation and responsibilities for the Canadian business, R&D activity, production and exports. But such undertakings are typically in effect for only a three-year period. While a regional or head office and local involvement may persevere beyond these commitments, the engagement in, and knowledge of, the local community naturally changes because of acquisitions.
Teck has been a champion of initiatives both big and small in Canada.
Have you ever been frustrated by inefficiencies in the Canadian health care system? In 2021, Teck donated $10-million to build the new emergency department at St. Paul’s Hospital in Vancouver to address pressing issues, including wait times. Mining for Miracles is the community’s longstanding fundraising campaign for the BC Children’s Hospital Foundation, which has raised more than $20-million since 1988. Teck has been involved since Day 1.
Are you a student at the British Columbia Institute of Technology? In 2022, Teck donated $5-million to the BCIT Inspire Campaign.
Do you play in B.C. parks? Teck made a $5-million donation in 2022 to the BC Parks Foundation.
Concerned about health and safety in public places? Teck has donated to the Royal Ontario Museum to outfit high-traffic areas with antimicrobial copper surfaces. Similarly, it has funded the Copper in Transit program, partnering with (among others) TransLink, Vancouver Coastal Heath, the Toronto Transit Commission and the Mount Sinai Hospital/University Network.
Consider yourself a sports fan? Teck is the first major commercial sponsor for the Invictus Games Vancouver-Whistler 2025. In addition, as a national partner of the Canadian Olympic Committee and the Canadian Paralympic Committee, Teck has a long history of supporting Canadian athletes.
It also supports countless other initiatives – not done through commitments made to the government for a limited time, but rather everyday engagements by a corporate citizen that is proud to be part of the local community.
On a global scale, Teck is also a responsible citizen that has invested in leading the green transition. The planned separation of its coal and copper operations supports this long-term vision, channelling coal profits into a copper business that will be well-positioned for the growing demand.
Copper is going to play a key role in the transition to a low-carbon economy. Teck has been transparent in its steps toward net-zero greenhouse gas emissions, from piloting a carbon capture, utilization and storage plant to the adoption of zero-emission vehicles and renewable energy sources to membership in global organizations supporting climate action. In 2022, it also donated 14,000 hectares of land in Canada and Chile while contributing $22.6-million to conservation efforts. Although it has faced challenges along the way, Teck is striving to do the right thing, on the global stage, representing all Canadians.
It is only under Canadian ownership that Teck can continue to be such a community and global leader.