Oklahoma boasts a rich Native American history, diverse landscape and abundant natural resources. With all 77 counties in the state producing minerals, property owners may find that they own more than just a piece of land if valuable resources are beneath it.
However, it’s important to note that mineral rights can be separate from surface rights in Oklahoma. A property owner does not automatically have mineral rights. Without mineral rights, the property owner has no legal right to any valuable minerals underneath their land.
How are mineral rights different from surface rights?
Mineral rights give the owner legal rights to explore, extract, mine and profit from any minerals found beneath the surface of a piece of land. These can include different types of minerals such as coal, oil, natural gas, metals and gemstones.
On the other hand, surface rights refer to land ownership. It gives the owner the legal right to use the surface of the land to build structures, make improvements or how they see fit.
Mineral and surface rights can be complex because they are not always under the same person. Additionally, the mineral rights owner can enter the property to conduct operations, which can potentially cause disturbance and damage to the surface rights owner’s property.
To compensate for any losses and damages caused by the extraction of minerals, property owners who do not have mineral rights may want to negotiate payment with the mineral rights owner.
Learning what you own
To determine ownership of mineral and surface rights in Oklahoma, individuals must do extensive research on property records and deed books. In most cases, acquiring this information can be difficult and expensive, requiring a visit to the local courthouse that houses these documents.
Alternatively, individuals can work with a landsman, abstractor or title attorney with the expertise to conduct property research on their behalf.
Sometimes a landowner will find out that someone else has mineral rights to their property just before that person begins extracting minerals. In this case, the best course of action could be to see a lawyer. A lawyer can help protect the landowner’s rights, identify the actual mineral owners and suggest further steps.