Following the piece which we wrote last month about mineral rights ownership, many of you got in touch wanting to know the difference between surface rights and mineral rights. Whilst similar there is a great deal of difference between these two rights and today we are going to delve into what each are and what the differences are between the two. To help us we have industry expert Simon Hughes who worked for Ferrari Energy in Denver, Colorado, a business dedicated to the buying and selling of mineral rights for energy purposes. Without further ado then let’s get into what mineral rights are, what surface rights are and what the key differences are between the two.
What Are Surface Rights?
Generally speaking, surface rights are considered as land ownership and they are the rights of the surface of a particular plot of land. When you buy a piece of land or you buy a property your ownership of the land-only extends as far as the surface and above. Now you may be thinking about putting foundations in the ground and how that goes against what the surface rights indicate but this is generally accepted is being above board when it comes to building a property or a structure. What you don’t have ownership of is what is below the surface of your plot of land.
What Are Mineral Rights?
Mineral rights are the ownership rights to what is found beneath the surface. Minerals or resources such as oil, uranium, silver, copper or natural gas, for example, are owned by the government until they are sold off to a company that wishes to obtain the rights to those natural resources. When you buy a property or a piece of land it is extremely rare that you will get the ownership rights to what you will find beneath the surface. To go back to the point about foundations being put in the ground by those without mineral rights, the reason as to why this is acceptable is because anything that is found during the implementation of these foundations is not owned by the person who has the surface rights. Mineral rights are what large scale companies look to obtain before they are able to drill or mine a certain area for either exploratory reasons or because they know that there is value to be found underground.
As you can see the key difference here is who owns which layer of the ground, with those who have mineral rights owning whatever is found beneath the surface. It is possible for one party to own the surface rights of a particular plot of land and for another party to own the rights to the minerals beneath the ground, and we often see this with land owners, rather than property owners. Mineral rights are bought and sold much more than surface rights and the big difference between the two is that whoever has the surface rights has no claim whatsoever to anything that is found under the top layer of the earth.