Mineral rights are a form of real property. It is distinct from the surface land rights, and each may be owned by different entities. As such, the mineral rights owner has the right to use it as desired without interference from the surface land owner.
It is important to understand that mineral rights can be severed from surface land ownership. Many people may not be aware that they own mineral rights to the land, and if they do that they have the attendant rights of ownership, or that they do not own the mineral rights at all. This has sparked some controversy among land owners who find themselves in the midst of a dispute with hitherto unsuspected owners of the mineral rights under their land.
In other countries, this would not be an issue because mineral go to the government or state by default. However, things are different in the US. Real property laws allow for the private ownership of mineral rights, so it can lead to some bitter fights when the time comes to exploit the minerals in, say, a horse farm in Lee County where the Eagle Shale Ford is located.
It is also important to know that severed mineral rights in some states “expire.” What this means is the ownership of severed mineral rights that have lain dormant for a certain number of years may revert to the surface land owner. In North Dakota, for example, mineral rights that have been “abandoned” or unused for 20 years reverts back to the surface land owner.
This can be a boon for surface landowners who sold their mineral rights to speculators that never got around to developing the asset. They can get back their rights and sell it all over again. However, if mineral rights owners are not aware they own it, this is a waste. Make sure that you don’t make that mistake and do your research about any mineral rights you may own through an inheritance or other conveyance.
However, if the owner of the mineral rights decides to start development and mining operations, the surface landowner generally has no choice but to grant reasonable access. This is one of the inclusions in mineral rights.
If you are planning to sell your mineral rights, you should make sure that you know everything there is to know about its value. You can also choose to make it easy on yourself by getting a reputable mineral rights auction house do the legwork for you.