Warner’s Mining Industry Group provides sophisticated legal services to the mining industry throughout the Upper Midwest and beyond. Our clients routinely leverage the group’s extensive knowledge and experience to navigate the often complex legal issues that routinely arise throughout the various phases of a mine’s life cycle, from exploration and development to operation and closure. These include:
- Evaluating title to mineral rights and acquiring mineral rights
- Federal, state and local government permitting
- National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) review
- Cultural resource assessment and tribal engagement
- Project development and financing
- Mine safety and health regulation compliance
- Commercial supply chain management
- Federal and state litigation
Because our team of mining attorneys understands that each sector of the mining industry faces distinct legal challenges, they have developed specialized practices in particular sectors to help our clients succeed. Read more below about our special focuses in non-ferrous metallic minerals, aggregate, limestone and other non-metallic minerals.
Metallic Mineral Mining
Warner has been on the forefront of Michigan’s metallic mineral mining law for years. We represented the industry in the design and drafting of Michigan’s first non-ferrous metallic mineral mining statute and regulations, developed the first application for a permit under those regulations, and successfully shepherded that application through administrative review to obtain the first permit under the new regulations. Our depth of knowledge and experience in this sector is unparalleled.
Client Success Story
A major international mining company wanted to establish a new mining site and facility, so it hired Warner as lead counsel to set the stage for and shepherd to fruition Michigan’s first new underground metallic mineral mine in almost 60 years. Warner attorneys coordinated a multifaceted approach to develop statutory and regulatory authority, engage with tribes and the community and interface with Michigan’s executive and legislative leadership. When the project was approved, Warner successfully defended the environmental permits in multiple litigation forums through multiple levels of judicial review.
The greatest legal obstacle to aggregate mining in Michigan is the state’s patchwork of local land-use regulations, a challenge with which Warner is all too familiar. Here again, we are on the cutting edge, working with the industry to develop new regulations that will facilitate the extraction of aggregates where they are most needed, and designing creative strategies for working with local governments to secure permits without extensive litigation. Of course, when necessary, we readily enforce our clients’ rights to mine, in court. Some of the work we’ve done for the aggregate industry includes assisting clients with:
- Acquisitions of surface and mineral rights
- Safety issues with OSHA and MIOSHA
- Transportation funding and road repair
- Water withdrawal and discharge permitting
- State and local permitting
- Wetland, inland lake and stream management
- Aggregate reserve protection
- Aquifer mapping and protection
- Challenging local zoning restrictions
- Managing and defending against local opposition
Client Success Story
An aggregate mining client faced opposition from neighbors to its proposed expansion of a legacy pit to extend the life of the mine by more than a decade. Caving to political pressure, the municipality denied the permit because of the mine’s alleged impact on homeowners residing only a few hundred feet away. Warner successfully persuaded the court on review to reverse the municipality’s decision for lack of substantial evidence supporting its reasons for denial and to grant the company the right to expand into the new parcel. Warner then defeated the municipality’s appeal of that decision.
We help the limestone mining industry overcome the same regulatory obstacles and local opposition that the aggregate industry deals with, as discussed above, but finding and establishing new limestone reserves is particularly difficult and competitive. That’s why it is crucial to partner with a legal team that understands the unique legal challenges and strategic opportunities that attend opening and expanding a limestone quarry. Warner’s mining attorneys can help you acquire new land, establish the reserves and keep your business on track.
Client Success Story
Gypsum, Potash and Salt Mining
Warner represented a global limestone producer in the largest negotiation, purchase and exchange of lands from the state of Michigan in modern history, comprising in excess of 10,000 surface and mineral acres. Over a period of several years, Warner attorneys assisted the client in acquiring limestone mining rights from the state by leading negotiations with elected state officials and the Michigan Department of Natural Resources (MDNR), lobbying and guiding legislation facilitating the purchase through the Michigan legislature, and performing the necessary title and environmental due diligence for the project. The transaction required identifying and acquiring severed mineral interests and fee title properties desired by the State to exchange for the limestone mining rights acquired from the State. Ultimately, Warner was able to help craft an innovative offer that State officials and the MDNR concluded offered real value to the state and its citizens, and merited exercising the MDNR’s discretion to approve the deal.
One of the biggest challenges facing gypsum, potash and salt mining is finding new sites close to transportation and consumer markets, as transportation costs quickly price these commodities out of a competitive market. At the same time, these minerals can be extracted using several different methods, offering creative ways to extract the minerals from locations that may otherwise be difficult to access. These industries need a law firm on their side that appreciates those industry-specific issues when helping the company acquire or lease mineral interests, pursue permits or obtain financing for the construction and expansion of the mine. Warner’s mining attorneys understand these problems and opportunities, and regularly put that knowledge to work.
Client Success Story
In separate transactions over time, Warner represented an international lender financing the purchase of a large underground salt mining operation, an investor in the salt mining operation, and on two occasions, the lead book-runner in the issuance of more than $200 million in debt secured by the same underground salt mining operation. Warner assisted by overseeing and evaluating the title, environmental and permitting due diligence for each transaction and preparing and negotiating the security documents.