When you buy a piece of land, you usually are buying the mineral rights to that land, as well. However, there are exceptions. In some cases a previous owner may have sold the mineral rights to another party, in which case you have no control over who and how the minerals are extracted. If your deed does not specifically mention mineral rights, you may not own the mineral rights to that property. To find out for sure takes time and effort, but is important, especially if you live in an area where mineral rights can be profitable.
Examine the deed to your property and look for any mention of mineral rights. If there is no statement that they are included on your deed, you may not own these rights, in which case, you need to find out who does own the mineral rights on your land. Most land in the United States is "fee simple" land, which means that it is sold with all the rights attached. However, at any point from the time the land grant was given from the government until now, any previous owner could have severed the mineral rights, which means that the mineral rights were sold and are deeded separate from the surface rights.
Find the legal description of the property. In most states, including California, the system used to describe the property is the Public Land Survey System, often abbreviated as PLSS. States that do not use the PLSS system include most of the Eastern seaboard, Texas, and Hawaii. In these states, the legal description follows whichever division system was used at the time and these systems can vary widely. Regardless, the legal description used for your land should be on the deed and is the same that has been used for that property since it was granted.
Go to the county courthouse or registry of deeds in the county where your land is located. Using the legal identifier that is applicable for your property, find the property in the property records section of the courthouse or registry. If your property is in an area with a large mineral rights business, there may be a separate mineral rights section where you can look. Otherwise, the mineral rights are listed with the property records. A PLSS identifier looks like this: S ½ NW ¼ SE ¼, S32, T10S, R22W; if your county uses another system, ask a clerk to explain the system to you.
Trace the ownership of your property back in time, using the property or mineral records in the courthouse, until you find mention of mineral rights. The listing of all previous owners of the property is called the "chain of title." Generally speaking, the county files all deeds by year and cross references them with the legal identification of the property. By pulling all deeds associated with your specific plot of land, you can see all the owners of that piece of land. If at any point the mineral rights are listed as being sold separately from the land, the deed should list the entity they were sold to. If they are listed as being sold with the land, you retain the mineral rights.
- You can hire a landman -- someone who specializes in mineral rights -- to investigate the ownership of the mineral rights on your property for you, but this can cost from hundreds to thousands of dollars, depending on the complexity of the process.
- This can be a long, difficult, and tedious process to undertake.