Mining

Minerals are fundamental ingredients for a multitude of products and solutions—from electric car batteries to medicines, and livestock feed to asphalt. As the mining industry carries out its mission as an important contributor to manufacturing and economic development, it faces volatile market conditions and a myriad of complex and often overlapping federal, state and local laws that impact operations. While the economic and regulatory challenges are significant, opportunities loom as well in the form of technologies and innovations changing the ways minerals are located, extracted and used.

Key Contacts

Joseph J. Perkins, Jr. Partner Anchorage, AK
Willa B. Perlmutter Of Counsel Portland, OR
Richard R. Hall Partner Boise, ID
Thomas A. Henry Partner Sacramento, CA
See all contacts
Overview

We have a highly experienced team that advises mining companies across the entire spectrum of issues you face in operating and growing your business. As lead counsel for aggregate, base and precious metal, industrial mineral and coal mines, both on the surface and underground, we offer broad experience navigating you through the complex web of environmental, safety, permitting, land use, labor and employment, transactional and financing hurdles.

Our team includes attorneys and staff who are geologists, landmen and former state and federal environmental agency officials. We deliver valuable counsel through a combination of our understanding of the business of mining, the perspective of former regulatory enforcers, and nationally recognized proficiency in all aspects of environmental and safety law.

Our Services

  • State and local mine operations permitting
  • Regulation of federal lands under FLPMA, Mining Law of 1872 and other public land laws
  • Permitting, compliance and litigation under the federal ESA, CWA and CAA
  • Mine safety, including compliance with the Mine Act, the Occupational Safety and Health Act, and their implementing regulations
  • Water supply and water rights issues
  • Cleanup of contaminated mine sites and hazardous material releases
  • Project finance, acquisition and tax issues
  • Leasing, access rights and joint development of exploration and mining operations
  • Mineral title examination for private, state and federal lands
  • Supply chain and construction-related contract negotiations and dispute resolution
  • Litigation for disputes involving operating agreements, leases and other mining-related agreements

Land Use and Permitting

We assist with the full range of needs when permitting mines whether they are located on federal, state, tribal or private lands. As we quarterback the federal and state environmental review process and collaborate with technical consultants, we create an administrative record that can be a line of defense against litigation challenges. When mining operations end, we assist with closure plans and compliance with various site remediation laws.

Environmental and Safety Compliance and Defense

We understand your challenges complying with and defending against enforcement actions under local, state and federal environmental and safety laws. Our reputation as attorneys with deep knowledge of the regulatory framework affecting the mining industry and connections with regulators are distinct advantages as our clients address and respond to compliance questions and enforcement actions. Regulators appreciate our broad background in assessing and resolving compliance issues.

We’ll partner with you to resolve enforcement actions and citizen suits and address challenges to proposed agency rulemakings.

Mine Safety

When it comes to safety and health, our team has deep experience representing all sectors of the mining industry. We regularly defend mining companies and mine supervisors against administrative enforcement actions brought by the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) for alleged violations of the Mine Act. Equally important, we counsel clients on the requirements of the Mine Act and the Occupational Safety and Health Act, to help them head off problems before federal regulators get involved. In addition, we regularly help mining companies through investigations, whether they are internal or carried out by the government after an accident or other triggering event. We also regularly—and successfully—defend mining companies in whistleblower cases brought under the Mine Act. And since litigation isn’t always the best answer for our clients, we actively cultivate and maintain strong, productive relationships with policymakers and decision-makers on Capitol Hill and in the federal government.

Corporate and Transaction Services

We assist with negotiating and drafting agreements for mining transactions, including exploration agreements, mining leases, royalty agreements and joint ventures, as well as major asset acquisition, project financing and similar agreements. This includes advice on in-depth environmental due diligence, title review, permitting and specific details regarding mineral, surface access and water use rights. Our tax professionals are very familiar with special state and federal tax issues that affect businesses engaged in mineral exploration and development.

Litigation

Sometimes the courtroom simply cannot be avoided. In that situation, we have a team of experienced litigators with a proven track record of resolving cases that range from small disputes to bet-the-company litigation. This experience includes litigation related to mineral royalty and lease disputes, trespass actions, protecting mineral and surface access rights from urban development, and challenging local, state and federal administrative agency actions.

 


 

Matters
  • Assisted a mining company with land status and mining claim issues, various real property transactions, access and permitting issues, and other matters relating to a high-grade graphite deposit in Alaska.
  • Represented a mining company in connection with its credit facility and accompanying security documents on a silver and other metals mine. Our work included negotiation and drafting of a deed of trust and associated security documents, substantial title analysis and other due diligence, and the delivery of enforceability opinions.
  • Represented an Australian mining company in connection with development of an industrial sands (chromite, zircon, garnet, ilmenite) mine and off-site processing facility in Oregon. This work included business and securities issues, project finance, real estate matters, mineral leases, federal,  state and local permitting, and successful defense of lawsuit alleging Clean Water Act, ESA and NEPA violations.
  • Represented a Canadian junior mining company in obtaining prospecting permits for exploration of hardrock minerals, including copper, molybdenum, silver and gold, on acquired lands within the Gifford Pinchot National Forest in Washington.
  • Represented a mining company in permitting a vat-leach uranium mine in Oregon.
  • Served as lenders’ counsel in the acquisition of mineral rights and unpatented mining claims at the only rare earth mine in the United States.
  • Obtained a 100-year conditional use permit and reclamation plan for an 800-acre aggregate mine in Fresno County, California.
  • Defended an asphalt plant operator and its parent company in a trespass action brought by a gold dredging company seeking disgorgement damages in excess of $10 million.
  • Served as lead counsel for trustee of trust established under court-ordered settlement to oversee funds dedicated to, and management of, remediation of abandoned gold mine.
  • Represented mining company in litigation brought against the California Department of Conservation challenging procedures relating to a mine’s removal from public contracting list for sand and gravel.

MSHA EXPERIENCE

  • Represented a mine operator in a catastrophic accident in which four miners were killed, including participating in the MSHA accident investigation and the subsequent administrative enforcement action.
  • Secured a decisive victory, after trial, on behalf of the operator of an underground silver mine and a construction contractor jointly accused by MSHA of knowingly violating mining regulations in connection with an arson fire, with findings of no violation as to all charges.
  • In a U.S. Court of Appeals, challenged an administrative law judge’s order returning a whistleblower to his former position as an underground miner against an evaluating physician’s medical recommendation.
  • In quasi-criminal enforcement proceedings, represented an individual manager accused of knowingly violating the Mine Act and causing the deaths of two miners working under his supervision; as a result, the individual was cleared of wrongdoing and no criminal or civil charges were brought against him.
  • Directed and conducted an internal investigation into allegations that management at an underground coal mine had failed to manage water properly, resulting in a flooded escapeway that jeopardized the safety of miners.
  • Managed an internal investigation to determine why automatic airlock doors essential to proper mine ventilation persistently failed to function as designed and whether management had taken appropriate steps to address the problem and safeguard mine personnel.
  • Through relationships developed with officials at MSHA, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) advocate on behalf of clients seeking agency action or forbearance without resorting to litigation; regularly meet with government representatives on a variety of public policy initiatives affecting mining and industrial clients.
  • Conduct training seminars for mine operators and others on a number of topics, including anticipating and reducing civil and criminal liability by responding appropriately to inspections, investigations and catastrophic events; responding to whistleblower complaints; and legal developments under the Mine Act.
Team
Insights & Presentations
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