Understanding Mineral Rights

According to the information group Geology, mineral resources in most parts of the world belong to the government of the country in which they are found. In the U.S., the owner of the land where the minerals are found has ownership and mining rights.


The Kansas Geological Survey describes minerals as organic substances such as oil and gas as well as inorganic substances such as bentonite and potash. The organization describes mineral rights as the rights of ownership of the mineral resources that lie beneath an area of land.

Fee Simple Rights

The simplest form of ownership is known as fee simple rights. According to Geology, fee simple ownership describes a situation in which one owner owns every part of the land, from the air above to the underground areas beneath the land that contains mineral resources.


In some instances, the owner of land where mineral resources are discovered does not have the capital or the ability to extract the resources. In such cases, the owner can enter into a mineral rights lease, most likely with a large mining organization. A lease gives the organization the right to extract the mineral resources from underground and the right of access to the surface area.


Before mineral rights are sold or leased, the parties involved generally investigate the land’s legal history to see whether the land and subsurface rights have been severed at any time, which could pass ownership of the mineral resources out of the hands of the landowner.


Mineral rights are often used as an investment, with organizations purchasing the right to mine for mineral resources with no intention of mining the area themselves. The resale of rights is common, according to Geology, with many companies and individuals holding mineral rights to areas for many years before reselling them.

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Time Limits

The landowner can place time limits on the lease of mineral rights, according to Geology. When the lease expires, the rights revert to the landowner. Large mining organizations often plan years in advance, meaning a deal signed for mineral rights may not result in any mining until years later.