Stuart R. Butzier

Direct: 505.848.1832
Main: 505.983.2020
Fax: 505.988.8996
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Stuart Butzier has assisted mining, energy and ranching clients throughout his twenty-five-plus year legal career with Modrall Sperling.  His advice and counsel has included helping clients strategically navigate the maze of environmental and mining regulatory and permitting regimes, the morass of litigation, and the unique challenges of complex deals and real property transactions. 

Recognized in the area of Environment, Natural Resources & Regulated Industries by Chambers USA, Stuart is considered a "tenacious litigator who gains excellent results," and is held in high regard by market sources, who say that "on the mining side of things, he's really one of the top-tier folks in New Mexico," and that "he is wonderful; he's immediately responsive and makes incredibly helpful presentations on complicated issues." He has been recognized by Best Lawyers® as "Lawyer of the Year" five times, most recently as 2016 Natural Resources "Lawyer of the Year" in Santa Fe.  He has achieved the AV® rating from Martindale-Hubbell and has been selected among those included in Southwest Super Lawyers®. In addition, New Mexico Business Weekly chose Stuart as Best of the Bar in Natural Resources in 2011.  He is also listed in the International Who's Who of Mining Lawyers, 2003 to present.

Currently Managing Director of the Santa Fe office, he has previously served as Chair of the firm's Natural Resources Department and was a recent four-year member of the firm's Executive Committee. Stuart has devoted himself to ensuring that the firm's attorneys and staff are primed to provide excellent, cost-effective service to clients. He is a team player who is adept at helping clients and colleagues pursue their business and professional goals.  He also helped to recruit many of the firm's bright young attorneys. 

Stuart is actively involved in community and professional non-profit organizations.  As a long-time Trustee of the Rocky Mountain Mineral Law Foundation and past member and Chair of the Section of Natural Resources of the State Bar of New Mexico, he has contributed countless hours as program chair, author and speaker in connection with legal education programs in New Mexico and throughout the West.   He is past President of the University of New Mexico School of Law Alumni Association.  His professional practice and interests extend beyond New Mexico to other parts of the West and, to a limited extent so far, other countries. 

Stuart enjoys playing guitar in a band and supporting the music scene in New Mexico.  His other interests include basketball (as former player and coach), natural landscaping, amateur photography and art. 


  • University of New Mexico School of Law, J.D., 1989, member, New Mexico Law Review; Frederick M. Hart Prize for Excellence in Commercial Law
  • Grinnell College, B.A. in English Literature, 1981, basketball team captain

Bar Admissions

  • New Mexico
  • U.S. District Court for the District of New Mexico
  • U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit
  • United States Supreme Court
  • U.S. Court of Federal Claims

Practice Areas


Representative Mining Matters

  • Advised Burrell Resources Group and numerous other clients on mining claims, staking and notice requirements on federal public lands or split estate lands under the General Mining Law of 1872 and the Stock Raising Homestead Act of 1916. 

  • Represented Anglo Pacific and Resource Capital Funds, respectively, in connection with mines and mining interest due diligence involving lead and uranium operations and facilities in Michigan and New Mexico.

  • Litigated in U.S. District Court for the District of New Mexico on behalf of Goldcorp and its Mexican mining subsidiary, Minera Peñasquito, in connection with a failed transaction to purchase over four million dollars' worth of large mine equipment tires.  The case resulted in judgments being entered in favor of Minera Peñasquito against defendants.  See Minera Peñasquito S.A. de C.V. v. Shannon, et al., U.S. Dist. Ct. No. CIV 09-1149 BB/WDS (D. NM).

  • Lead litigator for Mainline Rock & Ballast in suit over complex mining transaction involving rights to royalties and related payments associated with development and production from a quarry on split-estate lands.  Case resolved through a mediated settlement.  See Conway v. Mainline Rock and Ballast, Inc. and EUCON Corp., Seventh Judicial District Ct. (NM) No. D-0722-CV-2006-00174.

  • Represented a group of substantial mineral interest owners in challenging a New Mexico agency's designation of over 700 square miles of the Grants uranium belt as a "traditional cultural property" at the request of five nominating tribes and pueblos.  Initially sustained a due process challenge in State District Court, a decision later overturned by the New Mexico Supreme Court.  See Rayellen Resources, et al., v. NM Cultural Properties Review Committee, et. al., NM Supreme Court, No. 33,497 (Feb. 6, 2014). 

  • Represented multiple clients' interests in various adjudicatory and rulemaking proceedings before the New Mexico Mining Commission and Coal Mining Commission, including cases arising from enforcement contexts and multiple proposed rulemakings under the New Mexico Mining Act of 1993 since the Act's inception. 

  • Represented Rio Grande Resources, Freeport McMoRan Copper & Gold, Burrell Resources Group, BE Resources, Alta Gold, Newmont, and Copper One, among others, in permitting proceedings and hearings before the New Mexico Mining & Minerals Division, the Environment Department, and the Water Quality Control Commission. 

  • Represented BHP Billiton and its subsidiaries, BHP Navajo Coal Company and San Juan Coal Company, in enforcement proceedings and settlements with the federal Office of Surface Mining (OSM) and New Mexico Coal Bureau under the requirements of the Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act (SMCRA). 

  • Counsel to Santa Fe Pacific Gold Corporation in litigation against United Nuclear Corporation over reclamation requirements for the Northeast Church Rock Mine.  Case resulted in a settlement that led to performance of reclamation responsibilities by United Nuclear Corporation's parent, General Electric.  See Santa Fe Pacific Gold Corp. v. United Nuclear Corp ., Eleventh Judicial Dist. Ct. (NM) Civil Action No. CIV 97-139-II.

Representative Environmental Matters

  • Represented BNSF Railroad in complex, multi-party negotiations over environmental, indemnity, voluntary remediation and liability-related negotiations, involving a legacy train fueling station site in an urban setting with diesel and other constituents present in ground water.

  • Co-Counsel to Phelps Dodge Corporation and its successor, Freeport McMoRan Copper & Gold, in adjudicatory proceedings and appeals before the New Mexico Environment Department, the Water Quality Control Commission, and the New Mexico Court of Appeals involving closure requirements for the Tyrone and Chino open pit copper mines under the Water Quality Act.  See Phelps Dodge Tyrone, Inc. v. N.M. Water Quality Control Commission , 2006-NMCA-115, 140 N.M. 464, 143 P.3d 502. 

  • Served as Co-Counsel to Newmont (USA) Limited, along with Colorado counsel, in connection with reclamation requirements under the Mining Act and CERCLA Section 104(e) inquiries from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) relating to uranium sites in New Mexico leased to other mining companies by Santa Fe Pacific Gold Corporation and Santa Fe Pacific Mining. 

  • Counsel to Peabody Natural Resources Company and its subsidiary, Lee Ranch Coal Company, on issues under the Clean Water Act (CWA) and the Archeological Resources Protection Act (ARPA), including lead counsel in Triennial Review and other proceedings before the Water Quality Control Commission (WQCC) involving the application of water quality standards to mine impoundments. 

  • Co-Counsel to Freeport McMoRan Copper & Gold in connection with proceedings under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act (MBTA). 

  • Litigated in the U.S. District Court for the District of Colorado on behalf of a mining contractor on claims of liability under CERCLA involving the gold heap leach operation that became the Summitville Mine Superfund site in southern Colorado.  The client gained dismissal after favorable rulings on motions to dismiss and for summary judgment.  See United States v. Robert M. Friedland, et al. , United States District Court for the District of Colorado, Civil Action No. 96-N-1213.

  • Represented golf course club in connection with New Mexico Water Quality Act ground water discharge permitting issues associated with the club's secondary use of fully treated wastewater placed into ponds and withdrawn for irrigating the golf course facilities.

Representative Renewable Energy Matters

  • Lead New Mexico counsel for Invenergy LLC and its subsidiaries, La Sierrita Wind and SolarGen, in connection with county wind ordinance hearings, land transactional advice, and state court litigation.  Presented health and noise experts in a San Miguel County Commission proceeding in the course of successfully advocating for reasonable setback requirements for commercial scale wind turbines. 

  • Lead counsel for Vawtpower, Inc., in New Mexico Public Regulatory Commission (PRC) proceedings relating to efforts to address and promote distributed generation sources in the state. 

  • Provided advice and drafting assistance to renewable energy clients relating to leasing and access for power generation and transmission on private, state and split-estate lands.

Representative Land and Ranching Matters

  • Lead counsel to Freeport McMoRan Copper & Gold and its predecessor, Phelps Dodge Corporation, in a complex land transaction involving the posting of fifteen large ranch holdings of Pacific Western Land Company as collateral to the State of New Mexico Mining and Minerals Division (MMD) and Environment Department (NMED).  Elements of the representation included the overseeing of title reviews, mortgage drafting, land appraisals and Phase I, II and III environmental reviews and transactional screens, all within the regulatory framework of providing financial assurance for closure of large open pit copper mines under the New Mexico Mining Act.

  • Lead firm counsel to the owner of a large tract of highly developable "bosque" lands in Albuquerque's North Valley upon which the owner placed a permanent conservation easement for the benefit of current and future generations of the public.  When the State subsequently rejected an appraisal of the conservation easement, a successful appeal resulted in the Court's reversal of the Taxation and Revenue Department for its "arbitrary and capricious" action.  See John and Cynthia Sparks v. New Mexico Taxation and Revenue Dept., et al. , Second Judicial Dist. Ct. (NM) Civil Action No. CV-2010-07137. 

  • Lead litigation counsel for two Elkins family ranches against a lessee that sued in State District Court to avoid requirements under a consolidated mining lease and access agreement involving the two ranches.  The court dismissed all claims against the Elkins on a motion to dismiss for failure to state any claim upon which relief may be granted.  See Ree-Co Uranium L.P. and Oliver Reese v. Lynn Elkins, et al. , Eleventh Judicial Dist. Ct. (NM) Civil Action No. D-1113-CV-200900584. 

  • Lead counsel for J.H. Williams, and subsequently his estate and siblings, in negotiating and drafting a uranium lease and option with a prospective developer, and in subsequently protecting their interests against a "traditional cultural property" designation encompassing their mineral interests and associated express and implied surface rights. 

  • Transactional and litigation counsel to the Ramirez family, owners of a tract within the boundaries of the Manzano Land Grant community believed to be the locus of a 17 th Century Spanish industrial mining complex.  In addition to achieving a favorable settlement of state court claims made against the family by an early interested party, negotiated and drafted three significant transactional vehicles with Minerales de San Miguel, including an exploration with option agreement, a mining lease, and a joint venture relating to intellectual property and archeological resources. 

  • Counsel to Santa Fe Pacific Gold Corporation, its predecessor, Santa Fe Pacific Mining, and its subsidiary, Cerrillos Land Company, in negotiating and drafting over twenty joint venture agreements based loosely on the Form 5 Model Mining Joint Venture Agreement published by the Rocky Mountain Mineral Law Foundation (RMMLF).  The mineral lands involved in the ventures were part of the millions of acres of checkerboard lands granted from the United States to the Santa Fe Railroad throughout the West.  The typical transaction required a mining company to expend significant funds and efforts in exploring and developing the clients' land holdings in order to earn an interest in the lands as a venture partner.


Professional Activities

  • Past Chair, Modrall Sperling Natural Resources Department
  • Chair, Modrall Sperling Mining and International Practice Groups
  • Member, Director's Advisory Committee, New Mexico Mining and Minerals Division (industry representative)
  • Secretary, Board Member and Trustee, Rocky Mountain Mineral Law Foundation (Mining Chair, 2005 and 2011 Annual Institutes; Program Chair, Special Institutes on Uranium Exploration and Development and Administrative Law and Practice; Member, Special Institutes, Site Selection, Law Students and Long Range Planning committees; Albuquerque Region Planning Coordinator; New Mexico Mining Reporter, Mineral Law Newsletter)
  • Member, New Mexico Mining Association's (NMMA) Environmental, Legislative Affairs, and Coal committees; regular contributor to the Association's newsletter
  • Member, Association of Commerce and Industry (ACI) Energy and Extractive Industries Committee
  • Modrall Sperling Executive Committee, 2007-2010
  • State Bar of New Mexico, Chair, Section of Natural Resources, Energy and Environmental Law, 1996-1997; Program chair of seminars on mining, environmental, utilities, oil and gas
  • University of New Mexico School of Law Alumni Association, President, 2004-2005
  • Adjunct Professor, University of New Mexico School of Law, natural resources and environmental law

Civic Activities

  • NM Kids Matter Board Member, 2013 - present
  • Leadership Albuquerque, 1993
  • President, Albuquerque Youth Basketball League East; coach of 25 youth basketball teams, 1996-2008
  • New Mexico Jazz Workshop, past president and board member
  • Outpost Productions, past board member




  • Chambers USA Directories of America's Leading Lawyers for Business in Environment, Natural Resources and Regulated Industries, 2010-present
  • Best Lawyers® 2016 Natural Resources Law "Lawyer of the Year" in Santa Fe
  • Best Lawyers® 2015 Mining Law "Lawyer of the Year" in Santa Fe
  • Best Lawyers® 2013 Litigation-Environmental "Lawyer of the Year"
  • Best Lawyers®2012 Mining Law "Lawyer of the Year" in Albuquerque
  • Best Lawyers® 2011 Environmental Law  "Lawyer of the Year" in Albuquerque
  • Best Lawyers of America® in Environmental Law, Litigation-Environmental, Mining Law and Natural Resources Law, 2008-present
  • Martindale-Hubbell AV® Preeminent Peer Review Rated
  • New Mexico Business Weekly "Best of the Bar in Natural Resources," 2011
  • Southwest Super Lawyers® (derived from a lawyer survey), 2008-present
  • International Who's Who of Mining Lawyers, 2003-present
  • New Mexico Mining Association Professionalism Award - 2017

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