How do Mineral Rights Work and How are They Conveyed?

By Josh Speiss

As a current or potential landowner you might be asking what mineral rights are. The term “mineral rights” typically refers to a person’s right to all subsurface minerals such as gas, oil, coal, gold, diamonds, quartz, copper or other valuable rocks. When you purchase land don’t assume you are buying what lies beneath the ground. Just because you own the land doesn’t mean that you own the minerals below the surface.

How do you research mineral rights and who owns them? Your first step would be to contact the county clerk or recorder’s office in search of a chain of title. In order to research a chain of title you will need an assessor’s parcel number, a legal description of the land, and the name of the property owner. A chain of title connects deeds between old and new owners. In some cases the county will be willing to research this for free, but typically they are going to charge a fee for research. They may direct you towards a title company.

Determining who owns mineral rights can be difficult depending on how many times the property has changed hands and if each transaction was done to the letter of the law.  Foreclosures, probates, divorces or errors in a legal description can create gaps in the chain. Verify your records carefully, looking for language where the seller is reserving all or part of the mineral rights. Royalty deeds may arise from your title search stating that you do not own the mineral rights but that you have the right to receive royalty or money if minerals were produced.


How do you sell or lease my mineral rights? Chances are that if your mineral rights are high in value you will have a line of investors or drilling companies at your door. Negotiating mineral rights can be tricky; it is well advised to seek counsel from a mineral attorney to help with the transaction. When leasing or selling these rights the amount of money you would receive is important, but there are other factors to consider. It is vital to protect your way of life. In the contract set guidelines to preserve structures, livestock, crops and your water source.

You may want to decide when the mining, drilling or exploring can occur. Make sure to add language to the contract protecting yourself from any delayed surface damage or damage to aquifers. Keep in mind how the drilling or mining will affect adjacent landowners, too. In most cases, un-exercised mineral rights can’t be taxed until the owner has sold or leased the minerals.

Whether you are buying land or selling mineral rights, it is well advised to seek professional counsel. Both transactions involve large amounts of money and are very complex. Educate yourself and know your rights along with the risk involved.

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