Victoria Usova

Victoria Usova

Job title (at time of interview)General Counsel at Central Asia Metals plc

LocationLondon, United Kingdom

“I believe the key to adapting to the demands of the mining sector is the ability and willingness to learn new and largely unfamiliar concepts … delving into areas that are not necessarily taught in courses and come from practical, hands-on experience.”

“Women in significant management and operational roles definitely make a positive impact on the success of a company … having diverse views when it comes to problem-solving and decision-making is imperative both in and outside of the Board room.”

Victoria Usova is the General Counsel at Central Asia Metals Plc (CAML), having been with the company for over six years. She is a dual-qualified lawyer, admitted as an Attorney to the New York State Bar and a Solicitor of the Courts of England and Wales.

In her role at CAML, Victoria is responsible for overseeing robust governance and compliance through the development and implementation of company policies. She serves as a conduit for all legal matters, including commercial contracts, financing, and the legal aspects of group insurance coverage. Additionally, she supports the wider Business Development team when it comes to evaluation of projects through due diligence, deal structuring, and contractual arrangements.


February 2024

By Kathy Sole

  • Please tell us how you came to work as General Counsel in the mining and extractive industries. What attracted you to this field, in comparison with some of the more ‘glamourous’ industries in which legal professionals abound?

    Before joining CAML in 2018, I was working in private practice, where I advised on a number of IPOs [initial public offering] of extractives companies on the London Stock Exchange. This entailed reviewing prospectuses, which are a prerequisite for admission to the market.

    That’s when I started becoming familiar with mining – both in terms of its achievements and its challenges. I was fascinated by the science and engineering involved in each phase of a company’s development journey and the teamwork required to actualise a project. Mining has a rich history and the industry is of great importance to our world today. After all, the extraction of raw materials is vital for modern living. The outputs from mining are the same inputs that power the innovations and inventions of our world today. Therefore, the continued production of these materials in a sustainable way enables positive change. I can’t imagine a greater draw than that!

  • You have had a highly successful career. Please describe your career progression, and how you reached the very senior position that you now hold.

    I studied Law at Oxford University, which gave me a good basis for future work in the legal profession. I was interested in corporate and commercial law specifically, so I subsequently undertook a Master of Science in International Financial Management to better understand financial markets. Once I was bar qualified, I joined a partner-led City [London] firm where I was part of a hands-on team. Under the capable corporate partner there, I gained experience working with natural resources and extractives companies, such as oil and gas and mining companies with operations in Zambia, Kazakhstan, Australia, and the United States. Many of these companies were either AIM- [Alternative Investment Market] or Standard-listed so I gained a good understanding of AIM Rules, regulatory frameworks, and industry codes. This, along with my Russian language skills, put me in good stead for the requirements of a role at CAML.


    For many lawyers, the decision to move from private practice to an in-house role is a significant one and it’s crucial to choose a company that shares your values. When I interviewed at CAML, it become clear that it was a close-knit team with strong leadership whose values were very similar to my own. I was fortunate to have worked under a very knowledgeable General Counsel at the time, who showed me the ropes. He took on a role at another mining company after almost a decade of service and that’s when I stepped into his shoes, which were big shoes to fill.

  • What has been the most rewarding professional experience or project of your career? What are you most proud of having achieved in your career so far?

    It’s an incredible time to work for CAML given the various ongoing projects, including the change of mining method at Sasa (our North Macedonian operation). The transition from the current sub-level caving method to a paste-fill approach has been a huge effort by the team and I was pleased to be able to assist and support, where possible. This included commercial contracts for construction and procurement of equipment, permitting and expansion of our concession, and the conducting of an Environmental and Social Impact Assessment. It’s a monumental project in terms of safety and efficiency, and is the first of its kind in-country, which is exciting in and of itself. Aside from extending the life of mine and improving recovery of mineral resources at depth, the alternative methods of tailings storage (backfill and dry stack) are more environmentally friendly and present a safer approach.

  • What has been your greatest challenge experienced during your career in the mining industry?

    The mining industry’s big focus over the last decade has been sustainability and ESG-related goals. This is a broad concept for the industry and includes environment and climate change endeavours, diversity and inclusion campaigns, and corporate governance associated with the increase in statutory reporting requirements. The concept of ESG, particularly when it comes to climate change, is relatively new and ever-expanding for all of us. However, this is magnified for those mining companies operating in jurisdictions that are nearer the start of their ESG journey.


    As with any material change, it requires continuous awareness campaigns about the need to do more for our climate and the reduction of the industry’s carbon footprint. Through such efforts, we were able to gain traction and acceptance, largely due to our very supportive site-based management teams.


    In addition to our various carbon-reduction endeavours, we have secured 100% renewable power for our North Macedonian operation and built a solar plant at our Kazakh operation that will provide approximately 16%–18% of the project’s energy consumption. We continue to look for opportunities to improve energy efficiency and substitute current energy sources, where possible.

  • Please describe your personal and professional attributes that you consider have been most influential in your success.

    I believe the key to adapting to the demands of the mining sector is the ability and willingness to learn new and largely unfamiliar concepts. This involves delving into areas that are not necessarily taught in courses and come from practical, hands-on experience.


    For me specifically, these areas include geology, mining methods, engineering, and the laws and regulations of various countries where projects are located. Being a good listener to those professionals who are experts in their fields is vital to becoming a better professional yourself and I am constantly impressed by (and grateful to) my colleagues for their patience and willingness to impart their knowledge and wisdom.

  • You have been fortunate to have worked in countries as diverse as the UK, USA, Macedonia, and Kazakhstan. Please comment on similarities and differences in cultures in the mining industries of these countries, particularly with respect to integration of women.

    In many countries of the world, mining is still seen as a traditional industry with a labour force predominantly consisting of men. Until as recently as October 2021, there was a list of jobs under Kazakhstan’s labour legislation that were prohibited from being filled by women. The legislation was repealed and the restrictions lifted, therefore women now have the freedom to choose for themselves which types of jobs they consider acceptable for their individual circumstances. Currently, there are similar restrictions in North Macedonia, where (with a few exceptions) women are largely banned from carrying out underground works.


    There are similar stigmas around the world regarding women working in underground mines. Although this originates from a protectionist view on women’s maternity and health, it nevertheless limits women’s autonomy and access to large sectors of the economy. At our operations, we seek to promote the inclusion of women in both technical and non-technical roles, and we seek to have meaningful discussions with government bodies about such restrictions. We are currently in the process of creating a more comprehensive diversity strategy at Group level, which further promotes our core values.

  • You have a particular professional interest in ESG (environment, sustainability, and governance). How would you characterise the performance of the mining industry to date in these areas? Please comment on the importance of ESG in terms of the ‘net zero’ global initiative.

    The ESG landscape has developed dramatically over the past decade, with sustainability featuring heavily in stakeholder discussions with mining executives.


    By recent estimates, mining and extractives industries account for approximately 7%–9% of global emissions, so the impact is considerable. On the other hand, the metals produced from mining are crucial elements of the energy transition because they have major applications for clean energy technologies, such as wind turbines and batteries for electric vehicles. Indeed, many of the outputs of mining are classified by governments as ‘critical minerals’, which are fundamental to our low-carbon future. Given the interconnectedness of mining to this future, the mining sector should be at the forefront of the ‘net zero’ global initiative to sustain the green energy transition.


    As a contributor to GHG [green-house gas] emissions, it’s imperative that mining companies identify and implement programmes to minimise energy usage, increase efficiencies (including substituting traditional sources with renewable power), and continuously monitor progress on Scope 1, 2, and 3 emissions in their industrial processes. [Scope 1 emissions comprise direct emissions that are owned or controlled by a company; Scope 2 and 3 indirect emissions are a consequence of the activities of the company but occur from sources not owned or controlled by it.]


    Given that there is room for improvement in the mining industry, it also means that the industry has the greatest GHG reduction potential to make the most impactful change. The industry has a great opportunity to make the most meaningful difference by a large factor multiple. Mining is necessary for both modern living and the energy transition, so it is crucial for projects to be operated in a sustainable way to ensure that we have a sustainable future.

  • As a leader in this industry, working with a variety of stakeholders ranging from Board executives, shareholders and investors, contractors, bankers, and a variety of legal and corporate bodies, as well as supporting professional and operational staff, please share your leadership philosophy and how you manage diversity in the workplace.

    My leadership philosophy revolves around merit-based inclusion and promotion. That philosophy is founded on giving credit where credit is due, mentoring juniors, and championing women entering the industry who may have family-oriented commitments. By its nature, this entails cultivating a culture of inclusion and creating an environment that caters to all races, religions, genders, and abilities. I’m proud to work in a predominantly female corporate office, with women holding key managerial positions. Leading by example sets the approach for our sites and breeds mutual respect, which is a key building block of a cohesive and motivated team.

  • Do you believe that the presence of women in significant management, operational, and support roles influences the ultimate success of a company? Does a more diverse operating team lead to better or different decisions or performance?

    Having women in significant management and operational roles definitely makes a positive impact on the success of a company. Women are great multi-taskers who approach matters in a somewhat different way and have a unique perspective on issues within the workplace. I firmly believe that great minds think differently, and having diverse views when it comes to problem-solving and decision-making is imperative both in and outside of the Board room. It is often the out-of-the-box thinking that leads to the most effective solutions.

  • Do you have any advice to young women starting out in their careers? What do you wish you’d known when you first entered the workplace?

    I would say to do a lot of listening to learn and soak up as much information as possible; but also, don’t be afraid of speaking up. Speaking up is a broad concept that encompasses several aspects. It means asking the ‘dumb questions’ as well as networking and participating in roundtable discussions. It also means requesting help from trusted colleagues, or advice from a mentor, and expressing opinions or concerns transparently. I’ve found that a lot of the time asking that question, or voicing what may seem to be a controversial viewpoint, leads to the most robust discussions and ultimately the best solutions.

  • A few months ago, you and several colleagues embarked on the Yorkshire Three Peaks Challenge. Please tell us about this event – what it is, why you did it, and the outcomes.

    The Yorkshire Three Peaks Challenge is a circular walk up and down three different mountains (each of which is approximately a 700-metre ascent), which is meant to be finished in under 12 hours. We chose to participate as part of a charitable fundraiser whereby we raised almost £ 5,000 for Centrepoint, a charity that seeks to end youth homelessness. Our group managed to complete the route in 10 hours and 45 minutes, and it was an incredible teambuilding exercise. It was one of the hardest things I’ve done physically and I was so pleased to have completed it alongside a team of my very supportive and encouraging colleagues.

  • Do you have any hobbies or other interests that you would like to share?

    I’m a fan of hiking both in the UK (as demonstrated by participation in the Yorkshire Peaks Challenge), but also abroad where the weather is a bit more trek-friendly. Although I’ve not been blessed with any artistic abilities myself, I have a huge appreciation of art and art history, so I try and attend the various art fairs and exhibitions that London has to offer. We are spoilt for choice!