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A Bank of Montreal sign is seen outside a branch in Ottawa.Chris Wattie/Reuters

Egizio Bianchini, one of Canada's best known mining bankers, is leaving BMO Nesbitt Burns Inc. after nearly three decades of deal-making.

His departure is another blow to BMO, which is known internationally for its expertise in mining investment banking. The bank-owned dealer will now have seen three rainmakers exit in less than two years. A number of sources told The Globe and Mail that Mr. Bianchini is leaving to work for mining billionaire Robert Friedland.

In an interview with The Globe, John Armstrong, deputy head of investment banking at BMO, said Mr. Bianchini is retiring from the industry, and pursuing a "new opportunity outside of investment banking." Mr. Bianchini, who did not respond to a request for comment, is expected to leave in March.

Mr. Bianchini has deep relationships with industry heavyweights such as Kinross Gold and Newmont Mining. News of his departure comes less than a month after Jason Neal, his former co-head of global metals and mining group at BMO, left to become chief executive officer of Toronto-based mining company TMAC Resources Inc.

Jason Attew, who was the bank's managing director of global metals and mining, left in the summer of 2016 to join senior gold producer Goldcorp. Mr. Attew is now Goldcorp's chief financial officer and in charge of acquisitions.

Mr. Armstrong said despite Mr. Bianchini's departure, he is "very confident in the future of our franchise." In light of Mr. Bianchini and Mr. Neal leaving, BMO has decided to promote internally.

Ilan Bahar and Jamie Rogers have been named the new co-heads of global metals and mining, investment and corporate banking. Mr. Bahar has spent his entire career in metals and mining and was a protégé of Mr. Bianchini. Mr. Rogers has been with BMO for more than two decades.

But Mr. Bianchini, perhaps more than any other banker, was the face of mining at BMO.

He joined the firm in 1989 as a precious-metals equity analyst. In the late 1990s, he garnered some unwanted notoriety as one of the analysts who vouched for Bre-X Minerals Ltd., which later turned out to be an epic fraud.

In 2001, he moved to investment and corporate banking. Eventually, he and Mr. Neal helped to build BMO's mining practice into one of the biggest in the world. From 2006 to 2011, Mr. Bianchini and the metals and mining group advised on more than $80-billion worth of transactions, including advising Kinross Gold Corp on its $8-billion purchase of Red Back Mining in 2010.

He was responsible for building up BMO's brand along with the bank's annual mining conference in Florida, which has become the go-to place for the global mining industry.

Mr. Bianchini was promoted to vice-chair of capital markets in 2011. Last year, he led BMO's efforts in bringing back steel company Stelco Holdings Inc. to the public markets.

Mr. Bianchini leaves banking at a time when the pace of deal-making has slowed significantly. While the value of mining M&A jumped about one third last year, it remains far below levels seen during the great commodities boom. In 2017, M&A with any involvement from a Canadian mining company was US$10.7-billion. In 2011, the last big year for the industry, mining M&A exceeded US$40-billion.

Mr. Bianchini is teaming up with Mr. Friedland, founder and executive chairman of Ivanhoe Mines Ltd., at a tricky juncture. Lately, Ivanhoe, which operates a large copper project in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, has seen its stock under pressure after the government moved to introduce a new royalty system that would see Ivanhoe pay significantly higher taxes.

In an e-mail to The Globe, Bob Williamson, a spokesperson for Ivanhoe Mines, said he had "no knowledge of details of any corporate considerations that may involve Mr. Bianchini."