"As the mining industry develops in Senegal, there will be impacts and challenges, and our plan is to develop our expertise to serve all the needs of our mining clients. Deforestation, for example, is becoming a problem, in addition to rehabilitation of mining sites.”
Could you provide an introduction to the firm and outline its development over the years?
SOJUFISC was established in 2006, and the firm has now grown to employ 20 people. We have two large departments – a legal department and a tax department. We also have an accounting department. In addition to serving the mining sector, we also work with commercial companies and those in the oil and gas sector. In short, we serve the natural resources segment.
Our clients include mining companies currently in production as well as in the exploration phase. We advise companies on their development and can also support them with administration challenges. Since we work with large companies that often have their headquarters elsewhere in the world, a lot of our work has an international element. We also have a subsidiary in Burkina Faso and plan to open an office in Côte d’Ivoire in 2019.
What advantages can SOJUFISC offer to companies compared to larger multinational law firms?
Having worked in the industry locally for a long time, we are very well connected within the mining sector. When mining companies began to come to Senegal, they found some difficulties in connecting with suppliers as the industry was not yet developed and there was therefore not a great deal of local experience. One of the firm’s breakthroughs occurred when Mineral Deposits Ltd entered the market and we participated in a memo, in which the larger firms commented that their plans in Senegal were not possible. However, we proved that it was possible, which was very much appreciated by the company and helped to grow our reputation. The mining business is built in large part on networks and recommendations, so building our reputation through the years is a significant contributor to our success.
For the first time since 2003, Senegal has recently updated its mining code. How are these changes likely to impact the industry?
The Senegalese government wants to give more back to the local communities and general population. In 2003, the regime’s focus was very much on attracting investors. The new regime, which came into power in 2012, believed that this mining code was not very advantageous to Senegal’s people and to the state. They therefore increased taxes and changed royalties from 3% to 5%. There is also a provision in the new code whereby a company will operate according to the tax regime under their original agreement, and this will not be altered if changes are made to the general tax code.
Are companies content with the changes to the Mining Code?
There were some challenges in the beginning with the changes. In 2012, the government wanted to impose a new tax, which was opposed by many parties and government advisers and would also impact companies with existing agreements in place. However, the cases that went to court went in favor of the companies in light of their pre-existing agreements.
How do you plan to extend SOJUFISC’s reach beyond Senegal?
Côte d’Ivoire and Burkina Faso are the next countries on our radar. Our focus is to have subsidiaries in the major mining countries of West Africa to support clients and form partnerships.
As the mining industry develops in Senegal, there will be impacts and challenges, and our plan is to develop our expertise to serve all the needs of our mining clients. Deforestation, for example, is becoming a problem, in addition to rehabilitation of mining sites. Because Senegal’s mining industry is not as developed as that of other countries, the expertise in the later stages of the life of a mine is not as strong. We want to fill this gap and grow with our clients as they progress their projects. Our priority is to form long-standing relationships. Nevertheless, having a diverse client base allows us to have a broader perspective and field of vision.