A Landman's “How-To-Do-It” Perspective on Mineral Exploration Permitting
Hoop jumping as a mandatory sporting event for mineral exploration companies is not getting any easier. Increasing pressures in recent years on extractive resource users of public lands in the United States have caused federal land management agencies to exert greater control over many activities on lands within their domain.1 Current legislative proposals to reform the 1872 Mining Law (HR 322 and S 775) focus on the alleged need for greater environmental protection of public lands and cleanup of abandoned hardrock mine sites.2 Proposed changes to mining claim patenting provisions and assignment of liability for cleanup of abandoned hardrock mines reemphasize the need for mineral exploration companies to carefully examine potential liabilities associated with property acquisition, and to exercise caution when contemplating mineral exploration activities on federal lands. Increasingly regulatory pressures for the cleanup of pre-existing problems arise not just from federal “Superfund” authorities and federal land management agencies, but from state cleanup authorities, and various permit-based requirements. This paper will focus on permitting requirements for conducting mineral exploration on federal lands, the expanded nature of potential liability for pre-existing environmental problems and avoidance strategies for minimizing potential regulatory liability prior to turning the
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