Mineral rights provide their holders with the right to explore, develop, extract and market various resources under the surface of the applicable parcel of land. Such resources may include:
Like regular property rights, mineral rights can be bought, sold and transferred in accordance with state and federal law.
Surface rights confer the legal right to improve, sell, transfer or otherwise manipulate the surface of a given parcel of land. Owners of the surface rights to agricultural land are free to plow or graze it as they see fit, and may also take steps to improve their land to aid these legal uses. Such improvements might even require surface rights owners to dig foundations for buildings or install underground tanks.
However, surface rights owners who don't own the corresponding mineral rights to their "surface parcels" can't exploit the valuable resources that they may find beneath their land, even if they discover black gold.
It's important to note that mineral rights parcels are not necessarily have the same boundaries with surface rights parcels. In some cases, an oil company may own the mineral rights to the land beneath a large number of surface parcels.
The transfer of mineral rights to an company that intends to exploit your property's sub-surface resources could create a nasty dispute. Despite their retained surface rights claims, property owners who sell their mineral rights are often forced to cede a portion of their landholdings to the exploiting party.
Unless the miner or driller is able to access the land via a horizontal rig that originates on another piece of property, it will need to set up an extraction zone on the landholder's property. Such zones typically require the following improvements:
Obviously, all of this activity is liable to create noise, light, air and water pollution, and other environmental and safety hazards.
If you want to know how to find out who owns the mineral rights under your land, then you must visit your county clerk’s office (free) and/or hire a private abstract office (not free).
From the land records you can construct a “chain of title," which is a sequential record of documents showing how the mineral rights have changed hands through the years. Your chain of title will be created using conveyances listed in index books at the courthouse or abstract office.
You should also take note in your chain of title all conveyances affecting the tract you are researching, and will also want to look for and examine any affidavits, liens, foreclosures, tax sales, divorce settlements, probate files, mortgages, etc. that might affect the property. Many of these are “conveyances”, as well. Be aware that some of these documents may only be filed in the court clerk’s records (aka district clerk) rather than in the county clerk’s records.