On the table outside the meeting rooms of the Rocky Mountain Mineral Law Foundation meeting in Vancouver, July 2007, were free copies of Mining in 32 Jurisdictions Worldwide and Environment in 25 Jurisdictions Worldwide, both published by Getting the Deal Through.

The first, a slim volume, contains an overview of the law related to mining in countries from Argentina to Zambia. For each country, legal experts describe the mining law for individual countries under these general headings:

  • The Mining Industry
  • Legal and Regulatory Structure
  • Mining Rights and Title
  • Duties, Royalties and Taxes
  • Business Structures
  • Financing
  • Restrictions and Limitations
  • Environment, Health and Safety
  • International Treaties.

One way to judge the quality of a volume is to see what is says about something about which you know something. So at the expense of repeating the obvious, here is what Robert A Bassett of Holland & Hart LLP says about mining law in the United States.

The principle law regulating the mining industry on federal land is the General Mining Law of 1872, (GML) which governs the acquisition of mining rights on federal lands. In addition, the Federal Land Policy and Management Act of 1976 (FLPMA) governs the use of federal lands including access to those lands and the exercise of rights under the GML on lands administered by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and the US Forest Service (USFS). Both the BLM and the USFS have issued extensive, detailed regulations governing mining operations that implement the mandates of FLPMA. The principle environmental law governing mining on federal lands is the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) that requires every public agency to consider the impact of any major federal action upon the quality of the human environment. For mining projects, NEPA and its implementing regulations nearly always mandate the preparation of an environmental assessment (EA) followed by the preparation of and environmental impact statement (EIS). Preparation of an EA or EIS also requires analysis of a project under many other environmental statutes including the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act and the Endangered Species Act.

I was intrigued to read this under the heading US International Treaties:

One of the treaties that is most watched by the mining industry in the US is the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), and its provisions regarding expropriation claims. A case is currently pending under chapter 11, article 1,117 of NAFTA, in which Glamis Gold Ltd, a Canadian mining company, is claiming that when governments of the US and of the State of California took certain actions that resulted in Glamis being denied permits to operate certain gold mines in California, those governments violated the anti-expropriation language of NAFTA and that Glamis is therefore entitled to a large amount of damages. This matter was filed in 2003, and is currently working its way through the arbitration system established under NAFTA.

Clearly this slim volume does not go into every detail of the law of every country. For example, for Canada there are five pages of text. Compare this to the 3/8-inch thick volume called Canadian Mining Law published (sponsored?) by Fasken Martineau. There are no page numbers to this fascinating volume that is billed as being “from the Second Edition of the American Law of Mining.”

I particularly liked this description of the executive-legislative relationship in Canada (now I understand why Canadians have to put their faith in the concept of honorable politicians, illusory as that concept is.)

This system is characterized by the de facto unification of the executive and legislative branches of government. It allows for a more rapid change in law than is generally possible when these branches are separated and act as checks and balances on each other. It also results in fewer court actions against the government because the absence of an independent legislature usually results in laws that give considerable power or discretion to the statutory decision maker and leave little opportunity for successful judicial review.