“Just keep digging!”
This durable saying is used in so many industries but started in the mining world, naturally. As a lawyer working in this industry, this motto means so much more than pushing further into the Earth to develop invaluable resources: it relates to a career mindset to make the most of an inherently boom and bust business. Working as an attorney in this industry is far from being as boring as rocks—here’s why:
Opportunities in scarcity
Few mining companies can afford to keep a full staff of in-house attorneys due to the cyclical nature of the business. This does not mean that there aren’t opportunities for lawyers looking to get into the industry—it is just the opposite.
Opportunities arise from scarcity and the mining industry is no different. Companies look for specific services at competitive rates with little overhead. This demand allows firms and individual attorneys to specialize, seek clients, and deliver. Lawyers can ride the waves of boom and bust and stay above the water throughout it all, making for a dynamic and exciting career.
No, it’s not just rocks: developing natural resources is a complex business that faces many legal challenges. There’s securing the permit to explore, legally “staking your claim,” navigating state and federal environmental regulations, negotiating royalty contracts, securing funding and hedged investments, and then you start digging.
But wait, there’s more!
Mine safety, health concerns, environmental regulation, and hazardous materials pose continued legal challenges to any firm throughout a mine’s life. On the back end, acquisitions and divestitures of mines and mining assets is a busy business in itself.
What does all this mean? It means that there are opportunities at every stage of the industry requiring the services of attorneys specializing in anything from environmental law to mergers and acquisitions, and health and safety to investment and securities law.
Complex but rewarding
These legal needs can be demanding but ultimately rewarding. In the United States alone, it is a long and complex process to navigate environmental and workplace regulations to open a mine. But when successfully done, as a mining lawyer you would have successfully protected the environment and workers while creating local economic growth.
Internationally, the challenges only compound as you could find yourself on a literal frontier negotiating directly with a foreign government for a permit. When successfully done, however, you could be helping facilitate multi-million dollar investments that create local jobs, economic growth, and could potentially change the direction of a country.
This difficult yet rewarding environment that requires risk and innovation is what attracts attorneys to the industry. Like a prospector on an old frontier, a mining attorney must go out on their own and look for opportunity. If they ever face a downturn, they just turn to the same saying: “just keep digging!”