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What is the difference between surface and mineral rights?

Discover the difference between mineral and surface rights. Find out why knowing this is important as a landowner.

Oklahoma is a resource-rich area of the country. In fact, it produces 8% of the country’s natural gas and is the 5th ranked state for crude oil production. Land rights where are gold, and landowners need to be clear on the rights they own, which is why understanding the difference between surface and mineral rights is imperative.

Mineral rights defined

Mineral rights, according to the Oklahoma State University, are the right to mine the minerals under the soil. These rights do not include the rights to the actual mineral mined. A person can own just mineral rights on a property.

Surface rights defined

Surface rights are the ownership of the land above ground. Pheasant Energy explains these rights amount to the right to access.

Importance of rights

Surface rights are incredibly important because they give a person the ability to control access to the minerals under the surface. However, it is important to note that the law gives mineral rights owners access regardless. They do not have to have permission. The law does require the surface owner to provide reasonable access to the mineral area.

What usually happens if the owner of each type of rights is different is the surface owner creates a contract agreement with the mineral owner. Surface owners can make money as part of the deal because the law does say they have the right to revenue from the production of any minerals on their land.

It is incredibly common for two owners to have rights to the same land. Surface and mineral rights often separate at some point in ownership. There may even be situations where multiple owners own the mineral rights instead of just one owner.

Determine rights

Any property owner should be aware of the rights to his or her property. Owners can do an audit of the title history to discover any fraction of rights. A title search should be able to bring up all surface ownership details. The Register of Deeds in the state should also be able to help provide real estate records as needed.

It may not always be simple to figure out mineral rights because the law does not require recording of them in the same way as surface rights. It might require further research and investigation to ensure the accuracy of records.

Anyone dealing with land rights in Oklahoma should consider hiring an attorney familiar with gas and oil law, such as Mahaffey & Gore, P.C. An attorney can assist with determining rights and responsibilities to avoid legal issues.