Do You Know The History of Mineral Rights Ownership?
February 19, 2016
Like many other state in the U.S., the land in Texas is rich with minerals and natural resources, such as oil, natural gas, and even precious metals. The U.S. is also the only country in the world where ownership of those minerals and resources belongs to the landowner, as opposed to the state or the country. Yet it has not always been this way. The question of mineral rights ownership, including the right to sell mineral rights to someone else, created a number of disagreements before laws that protected landowners were put into effect.
Mexican Rule, English Common Law, and Mineral Rights
Until just after the Battle of San Jacinto in 1836, what is now the State of Texas was under Mexican rule. According to their jurisdiction, any deposits in the land were the property of the government. Then in 1840, Texas adopted English common law regarding property rights, including the ownership of any deposits found under the surface of a parcel of property. Shortly thereafter, disputes began arising over salt deposits that were being harvested, with the salt transported to Mexico for sale - despite the adoption of English property and mineral rights laws.
Soil and Mineral Ownership Laws in the 1800's
Over the next ten years, there were numerous disputes between property owners and those looking to take salt deposits and salt springs from Texas to Mexico to profit from it. In 1862 during the war between Texas and Mexico, the Texas government assumed possession of all mineral rights in the state to protect these deposits. By 1867, Texas had released mineral rights back to the surface owners, acknowledging that if the state were to assume ownership of all lands that held mineral deposits, there would be no land available in the public domain.
Salt in Texas was not the only mineral in question,. While Texas was dealing with its salt wars, similar disputes were occurring in other areas bordering Mexico, such as Arizona and California, over salt, gold, and other minerals and resources found within the earth. On the East Coast, including Virginia and Pennsylvania, landowners living under English common property law had been protected from the very beginning of English rule. Land in these areas was being bought and sold with assumed soil and mineral rights.
Federal Law Protects Landowner Mineral Rights
The late 1800’s and early 1900’s were a busy time for many states regarding soil and surface mineral right disputes, resulting in laws being written as a result of these disputes. In Texas, the first statutes to declare that a property owner could sell mineral rights along with a parcel of property were put into place in 1907. Shortly afterward, the Texas Supreme Court in 1912 made these statutes retroactive, giving mineral rights back to all property owners, even those that the government had retained up to that point. Throughout Arizona and California, similar resolutions were beginning to be put into place as well. These laws are still in force to protect a landowner's rights to the wealth that may be held within the soil of any owned piece of property. This alone makes ownership of certain land in the United States a much more lucrative endeavor than other properties across the globe.
Every state in the U.S. currently operates under the law that whoever owns the surface land also owns the rights to the minerals and resources beneath it. Because of this, property owners have the ability to lease or even sell mineral rights as they desire. Determining the worth of the minerals and resources within the soil of any land parcel is complicated, so property owners who want to determine the value of any minerals on or beneath their land should do so with the assistance of an experienced mineral royalty company!
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