Lundin Gold’s VP, legal discusses the development of a harassment policy for Ecuador operations
As vice-president, legal and corporate secretary at Vancouver-based Lundin Gold Inc., Sheila Colman is responsible for all legal affairs including corporate commercial work, dispute resolution, compliance, M&A and governance for the gold mining company. She frequently visits the company’s Fruta del Norte gold mine in southeast Ecuador which reached commercial production in February this year following a three-year construction project. In order to help the operation run smoothly and keep employees safe on the site in Ecuador, Colman recently helped to introduce a harassment policy.
“In Canada we’ve had a harassment legislation for more than 20 years, but it was only introduced into the labour legislation in Ecuador in 2017,” says Colman. “Unlike our legislation, it’s a very simple one-line that doesn’t give much guidance on what harassment is or what the employee legislations are, so we’ve taken Canadian standards, which are well-developed, and introduced them to Ecuador. Harassment is a novel concept in Ecuador,” she adds. Using Canada’s robust policy on harassment, Colman and the team at Lundin Gold developed videos last summer to help educate the workforce in Ecuador on the concept of harassment and to train the HR team to deal with complaints.
“Now we have people on the ground who can deal with complaints as they come in and conduct investigations and pull together reports for us so we can deal with matters internally,” says Colman, who has been with Lundin Gold for five years as the sole lawyer. She worked with external counsel in Ecuador to prepare materials to implement the policy. Colman finds the help of external counsel to be invaluable for assisting with many legal matters in Ecuador, due to the language and cultural barriers and legal differences. On the other hand, she prefers to keep her day-to-day legal work in Canada on her own desk.
“I understand the operations better than external counsel would understand our operations,” says Colman, adding that she does look externally for certain areas of expertise. As a solo lawyer, Colman enjoys working with colleagues in all departments of the organization and being involved in major decisions as a senior executive on the management committee.
One of Colman’s personal objectives for 2020 is to overhaul Lundin Gold’s compliance programs to right-size them for a functioning gold mining operation. External counsel will be retained to assist with a risk assessment at the parent-company level and at the subsidiary level to provide feedback into areas where improvement may be needed. Policies and procedures involving anti-bribery and corruption programs will be thoroughly examined and education may be overhauled to address any gaps that are identified.