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Diagram of an Exploration Agreement: Legal and Practical Documentation Pointers For Promoters and Participants

Karen E. Lynch, Proceedings of 43d Annual Rocky Mountain Mineral Law Institute (1997)

As a lawyer frequently charged with the task of documenting or deciphering today's large-scale exploration agreements, I am often in a position to empathize with Sisyphus, and my Sisyphean task is constant reinvention of the wheel. Simply put, there are no standard agreements governing large-scale three-dimensional (3-D) seismic plays.1 This is primarily due to the fact that the deal terms in these transactions vary widely; in fact, the number and character of deal terms that may be adopted in any particular 3-D transaction is limited only by the creativity and [17-4] imagination of the technical or land types who put these deals together. The people involved in drafting exploration agreements are often forced to start with nothing more than a blank page (bolstered by some boilerplate) or perhaps an ill-suited prototype from a previous transaction.

All this is not to say, however, that the process of documenting modern exploration agreements has to be, as if by its very nature, poorly organized or even haphazard. While 3-D exploration activities will probably never lend themselves to fill-in-the blank documentation, the attorney or landman charged with drafting an exploration agreement, or with reviewing an agreement prepared by another, would be well-served to prepare a check-list of frequently encountered issues or problems and then to consult and supplement such ch