Surface vs. Mineral Rights
In the U.S., real estate law makes a distinction between ownership of the land on the surface and rights to the mineral beneath the surface. When you purchase a home you do not always receive the rights to the minerals, because a previous owner could have sold them long ago. If your mortgage lists "Mineral rights do not convey" under "Exceptions," you do not own your mineral rights, according to Bankrate.
When the title to the property does not list minerals rights under the exceptions, you may need to hire an attorney to research the history of the mineral rights to your land. Sometimes, this requires the attorney to pore over records that go back to the early 1800s. This could end up costing more than the value of the mineral rights and is not always necessary. Homeowners own mineral rights about 95 percent of the time when the title does not disallow them, according to Steve McLinden of Bankrate.
Finding Out Rights for Free
You can research the mineral rights to your own property by going to the county clerk and sifting through property records. After finding land records, you must establish a chain of succession of mineral rights throughout history. To start off, you must know the land description. Southern states tend to use indiscriminate boundaries, such as trees and other land features. Elsewhere the federal township and range system is used, which has very specific delineation, such as distance from the Prime Meridian. If you already know the name or description of the property, you can look it up in the clerk's grantor/grantee index book.
A company or mineral rights lessor who wants to purchase your mineral rights often performs the work of researching them for you. Keep in mind that mineral rights can be subdivided over time or specific ones sold off, such as just oil and gas. If there are several owners to minerals rights, all of them must sign off on a lease.