25 CFR § 225.22 - Approval of minerals agreements.

§ 225.22 Approval of minerals agreements.

(a) A minerals agreement submitted for approval pursuant to § 225.21(d) shall be approved or disapproved within:

(1) One hundred and eighty (180) days after submission, or

(2) Sixty (60) days after compliance, if required, with section 102(2)(C) of the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 (42 U.S.C. 4332(2)(C)) or any other requirement of Federal law, whichever is later.

(b) At least thirty (30) days prior to approval or disapproval of any minerals agreement, the affected Indian mineral owners shall be provided with written findings forming the basis of the Secretary's intent to approve or disapprove the minerals agreement.

(1) The written findings shall include an environmental study which meets the requirements of § 225.24 and an economic assessment, as described in § 225.23.

(2) The Secretary shall include in the written findings any recommendations for changes to the minerals agreement needed to qualify it for approval.

(3) The 30-day period shall commence to run as of the date the written findings are received by the Indian mineral owner.

(4) Notwithstanding any other law, such findings and all projections, studies, data or other information (other than the environmental study required by § 225.24) possessed by the Department of the Interior regarding the terms and conditions of the minerals agreement; the financial return to the Indian parties thereto; the extent, nature, value or disposition of the mineral resources; or the production, products or proceeds thereof, shall be held by the Department of the Interior as privileged and proprietary information of the affected Indian mineral owners. The letter containing the written findings should be headed with: PRIVILEGED PROPRIETARY INFORMATION OF THE (names of Indian mineral owners).

(c) A minerals agreement shall be approved if, at the Secretary's discretion, it is determined that the following conditions are met:

(1) The minerals agreement is in the best interest of the Indian mineral owner;

(2) The minerals agreement does not have adverse cultural, social, or environmental impacts sufficient to outweigh its expected benefits to the Indian mineral owners; and,

(3) The minerals agreement complies with the requirements of this part and all other applicable regulations and the provisions of applicable Federal law.

(d) The determinations required by paragraph (c) of this section shall be based on the written findings required by paragraph (b) and paragraphs (b)(1) through (b)(4), inclusive, of this section. The question of “best interest” within the meaning of paragraph (c)(1) of this section shall be determined by the Secretary based on information obtained from the parties, and any other information considered relevant by the Secretary, including, but not limited to, a review of comparable contemporary contractual arrangements or offers for the development of similar mineral resources received by Indian mineral owners, by non-Indian mineral owners, or by the Federal Government, insofar as that information is readily available.

(e) If a Superintendent or Area Director believes that a minerals agreement should not be approved, a written statement of the reasons why the minerals agreement should not be approved shall be prepared and forwarded, together with the minerals agreement, the written findings required by paragraph (b) and subparagraphs (b)(1) through (b)(4), inclusive, of this section, and all other pertinent documents, to the Secretary for a decision with a copy to the affected Indian mineral owner.

(f) The Secretary shall review any minerals agreement referred with a recommendation that it be disapproved, and the Secretary's decision to disapprove a minerals agreement shall be deemed a final Federal agency action (25 U.S.C. 2103(d)).