One of the more complex aspects of the oil and gas industry involves mineral rights. Oil, gas, and other valuable resources are often found thousands of feet beneath the earth’s surface. These deposits may rest beneath vast expanses of open land or just below a private residence. In many countries the government claims ownership of all mineral resources, ranging from oil and gas to valuable rocks. This means any transactions related to the sale of mineral rights must first be authorized by the country’s relevant governing bodies.
In the United States, as well as several other nations, subterranean resources initially belonged to the person or business with ownership over the surface property. In this situation the owner possessed both surface rights and mineral rights, a private ownership referred to as fee simple estate. As drilling technologies have advanced, ownership laws and regulations have become much more complex. In many cases ownership of the surface and subsurface can belong to two distinct entities, or multiple owners can control a portion of the surface and the resources below. Ownership and sales regulations vary from state to state. Individuals involved in the oil and gas industry should familiarize themselves with the laws in their state or contact an attorney who specializes in oil and gas transactions.