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
Metallic Mineral MiningWarner 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 StoryA 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.
Aggregate MiningThe 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 StoryAn 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.
Limestone MiningWe 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 StoryWarner 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.
Gypsum, Potash and Salt MiningOne 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 StoryIn 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.
Mineral Rights Acquisition, Investment and Land Use Issues
- Represented numerous large mining projects and companies in real estate and land use matters across the Upper Great Lakes region.
- Participated in the acquisition, contracting, leasing and zoning matters for more than 70 separate mining sites in the Lower and Upper Peninsulas of Michigan.
- Participated in the sale, acquisition or financing of mining and construction companies and mineral resources.
- Performed mineral title examination services for numerous mining projects.
- Advised and represented clients in transactional issues involved with acquiring, starting, operating or selling aggregate mines and processing facilities, including asphalt and ready-mix plants.
Environmental Permitting and Compliance Issues
- Represented several mining and natural resource development companies in the upper Great Lakes region on permitting and compliance matters.
- Advised clients in zoning, water and air permit issues when acquiring, starting, operating or selling mining facilities.
- Managed and resolved real estate issues including purchase and lease agreements as well as siting, zoning and permitting issues associated with mining.
- Managed compliance with federal statutes such as the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), the National Historic. Preservation Act (NHPA) and the Endangered Species Act (ESA).
Cultural Resource & Tribal Engagement
- Represented several mining and natural resource development companies in the upper Great Lakes region on tribal engagement and appeals in federal and state courts.
- Successfully represented a mining company against tribal government’s multiple efforts to enjoin project development in state and federal courts.
- Assisted a multi-national company to acquire mineral interests from third-party owners through a land exchange.
- Researched and drafted mineral title opinions.
- Drafted purchase agreements for mineral and surface rights.
- Performed land acquisition due diligence and negotiations.
- Obtained zoning approvals and land use permits.
- Represented clients by interfacing with the DNR and other government agencies.
- Represented clients in complex title, access and leasing disputes in the development of oil, gas, nickel, copper, silver, gold, zinc, coal, gypsum, potash, salt, limestone, gravel, sand and other land and mineral resources.
- Represented intervening mining company as respondent on the question of whether, absent any statutory obligation, a federal agency can be compelled to initiate environmental permitting proceedings that regulated party has not requested.
- Persuaded the circuit court to affirm a township’s decision to allow crushing reclaimed aggregate products as an accessory use authorized by the client’s special use permit.
- Convinced the circuit court to first deny an injunction against underground mine’s blasting operations pending appeal and then affirm the decision by MDEQ to grant a Part 632 non-ferrous metallic mineral mining permit.
- Persuaded the circuit court to grant an expedited appeal, reverse the township’s adverse zoning decision and grant a special land use application to aggregate industries for mining.
- Defeated a third party appeal of the state of Michigan land-lease to our client and achieved early dismissal of ancillary claims using cutting-edge theories of constitutional and jurisdictional law.
- Represented clients in administrative and judicial hearings including hearings before township, city and other local municipal organizations in trial courts and before appellate courts including the Michigan Supreme Court.
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