What Are Mineral Rights?

What are mineral rights? Mineral Rights (or mineral estate) are the property rights that allow the holder to exploit a given area for the minerals it contains. The ownership of mineral rights or mineral interests is an estate in real property. By definition it is known as a mineral estate, however it is more commonly referred to as mineral rights. Minerals tend to include both organic and inorganic substances that form a part of the soil. Mineral rights typically include hydrocarbon resources such as oil and natural gas as well. A few exceptions to this can be sand, gravel, limestone, and subsurface water as they are typically considered part of the surface rights or the surface estate.

By owning mineral rights, you have the right to sell or profit from minerals extracted below the surface of the property. When a property owner has surface rights as well as mineral rights, it is called “fee simple estate”. Fee simple is the most basic type of ownership where the owner controls the surface, the subsurface and the air above a property. The owner also has the option to sell, lease, gift or bequest these mineral rights individually or entirely to others. Mineral rights can be severed or sold separately from the surface rights. This is typically done through a conveyance (typically using a deed) or a reservation of the mineral rights.

What are Mineral Rights vs. Surface Rights

A fee simple owner may not possess the desire or ability to mine the coal beneath his property, however a coal company does. In this case, the owner can sell the coal while also maintaining possession and control of everything on the surface. This allows the coal company to produce the coal, but does not require them to pay the additional price of acquiring anything on the surface. The coal company and the owner can strike a deal to share the property, essentially. A transaction such as this can involve all minerals (both known or unknown) beneath the property, or the it can be limited to specific minerals and even specific rock units.

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