Natural Resources Practice Group

The Firm represents numerous domestic and international entities in all aspects of mineral land exploration, acquisition, title examination, financing and development for natural resources projects located in the United States and Central and South America.  Our practice also includes the handling of a wide range of water rights and environmental law issues, including permitting issues at the federal, state and local levels.  From a natural resources project operations standpoint, our attorneys have many years of experience with on-going title status, financing, construction, contracting and leasing, employment, corporate and tax matters pertaining to natural resources projects.

Natural Resources Practices Group

Natural Resources Practice Group
Back row standing: Gary F. Urman, James M. Susa, John C. Lacy, Paul M. Tilley, Katheryn A. Smith
Front row seated: Spencer A. Smith, Michael R. Urman, Kathryn B. Nelson

Our team members include John C. Lacy, who has more than 40 years of experience in all aspects of natural resources project development with a special emphasis on title examination and related title matters. Mr. Lacy is a nationally recognized authority on issues of mining and public land law.  He has authored a wide variety of professional publications on subjects including state land title and management responsibilities, contractual vehicles for mineral development and mineral royalties.  Mr. Lacy works with Spencer Smith, Shijie Feng, Kathy Smith, and Paul Tilley on all aspects of due diligence involving the real property interests for natural resources projects.  This includes providing any required title reports and opinions necessary for project financing and any needed follow up on title issues.

Michael R. Urman and Kathryn B. Nelson possess a combined fifty plus years of experience in representing lenders and borrowers in all manner of complex and substantial financing transactions.  Outside the natural resources context, these financings include office buildings, hotels, shopping centers, franchise assets, school and other public facilities, wastewater treatment facilities and more unusual projects such as the principal oil and gas pipeline through Arizona and the principal fiber optics transmission line through Southern Arizona.  With specific reference to natural resources projects, Mr. Urman and Ms. Nelson have served as Arizona counsel on financings for numerous large mining projects (including operating mines) throughout Arizona, including representation from both the lender and borrower sides.  Mr. Urman and Ms. Nelson can provide any needed assistance with transaction documents, including the necessary Arizona security documents, and provide customary legal opinions in connection therewith, as well as other matters of Arizona law.

Spencer A. Smith, a senior shareholder in the Firm, possesses broad experience in all aspects of construction, contracting and leasing and the handling of disputes that may arise in these contexts. Mr. Smith and Mr. Urman also have experience pertaining to acquisition of water rights, transfer of Central Arizona Project water rights and various issues relating to aquifer protection, and Clean Water Act Sections 402 and 404 permits. Prior to his law practice, Mr. Smith worked as an exploration geologist and landman, and brings this experience and expertise to his practice.  Mr. Tilley, a Tulane University Law School graduate who worked as a landman before joining the Firm, brings his landman experience to the Firm’s projects.

Finally, our group includes Gary F. Urman, who for many years has assisted with any employment and litigation needs that may arise in the natural resources area.  Our team also has access to lawyers in the Firm with tax, corporate, intellectual property and other specialized knowledge to address any other need that may arise in the natural resources context.  Of special note, Jim Susa, a certified tax specialist licensed in Arizona and Nevada, has extensive experience in state and local taxation matters in Arizona and Nevada.  His practice includes the representation of national resources project owners in challenges to state property tax valuations and assessments.  The members of the Firm’s natural resources practice group are active in the Rocky Mountain Mineral Law Foundation, of which John Lacy is a past president (1992-1993).  


Areas of Expertise


Mineral Title Examination

Acquisition Agreements and Joint Ventures

Royalty Agreements

General Mining and Mineral Law

Contracting and Leasing



Property Tax Appeals

Public Land Law

State, Federal and Local Environmental Matters

Water Rights

Corporate and Tax


Intellectual Property