Who should you put in charge of getting all the permits you need to mine? Because of my degrees, two in engineering and one in law, I have been involved in many a permitting process for new mines, mine closure, landfills, and Superfund Cleanup projects. I have never been “in charge” of the permitting process, thankfully. For it is notorious for taking longer to get permits than any scheduler or manager has the courage to admit. The result is that permitting is always over-budget, and behind schedule. And the poor person in charge is always in the hot seat.

This leads us directly to the question: who should be in the hot seat, i.e., in charge of your mine permitting process? The most successful permitting process I have been involved with have had a group of local lawyers in charge of permitting. At the SME, there were a number of presentations by lawyers seeking more mine permitting work. I applaud this trend: a good lawyer knows how to identify the required permits, how to frame the issues to get the regulators to grant the permits, and how to fight if there is a regulatory delay.

I vociferously recommend keeping the permitting process out of the hands of the local engineering consulting firm. On those projects where I was involved with permitting, and the local engineering consultants were in charge of permitting, things inevitably went wrong, and the process, if it succeeded, took longer and cost more than anybody now cares to admit. Engineers get caught up in the truth and the technical facts. Most permitting authorities don’t want to be bogged down with detail; they just want to make sure the boxes are checked off. Engineers always want to provide more information than is needed to check off the boxes required to grant the permit.

The biggest mistake of all is to appoint as your person in charge of permitting the next young thing just out of college with a diploma or degree in science or public administration. They are full of idealism. They have hidden agendas. They are too nice or too honest to get your permits quickly and cheaply. Just avoid them.

Conversely a good kind of person to put in charge of getting your permits is the wily old drunk. They know how to smooze, booze, and wheedle a permit out of the wide-eyed or hard-bitten regulator holding an unissued permit. Put a team of expensive lawyers behind them with an open expense account, and your permits will be in hand before you can say Jack Robinson.

Good luck and do not skimp on the costs.