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Negotiating and Drafting Indian Mineral Development Act Agreements

Michael E. Webster, Natural Resources Development and Environmental Regulation in Indian Country (1999)

The Indian Mineral Development Act of 19821 (IMDA) is now nearly 20 years old, yet very little has been written regarding the Act,2 and there have been few judicial decisions3 providing any discussion or analysis of the Act. At the time of its passage, the IMDA was envisioned as a powerful and much needed aid for Indian tribes as they sought to have more involvement in the development of the wealth of mineral resources found within a number of Indian reservations. Prior to passage of the IMDA, it was doubtful whether Indian tribes could utilize any non-lease business arrangements for the development of their mineral resources. The IMDA specifically allows an Indian tribe to negotiate and enter into any type of agreement for the development of its mineral resources, subject only to the requirement that any such agreement be approved by the Secretary after finding the agreement to be in the tribe's best interest. This opportunity for tribes to deal more flexibly and efficiently with their mineral resources has set the stage for tribes and developers negotiating and structuring a wide variety of innovative and flexible agreements that better address the unique needs of the negotiating tribe and the business demands of the mineral developer.

To properly place in perspective the opportunities and advantages presented to developers and tribes who choose to utilize the IMDA,