It is important to understand the legal rights of the mineral owners below the surface of the land. Mineral owners have the legal right to extract their minerals regardless of who owns the surface of the property in Michigan. In the case of oil and gas exploration, mineral owners normally extract their minerals by negotiating an oil and gas lease with an interested oil or gas exploration company. In the event that the mineral owner is not the surface owner, the surface owner must allow reasonable surface access and may receive compensation for surface damages, if any, arising from surface operations.
It is important when you are buying or selling land that at least some of the minerals are held by the surface owner. With at least some mineral ownership, the surface owner will have some incentive and some control over who conducts operations on his land through the use of the oil and gas lease.
In 1998 the State of Michigan adopted Part 610, giving surface owners the right to purchase state owned severed minerals below their surface in certain circumstances (usually where those minerals acres are not currently leased or producing oil or gas). If you would like more information about this relatively new law, we suggest that you consult a knowledgeable attorney.
Part 610 does not apply to privately own severed minerals.
Another law, The Michigan Dormant Minerals Act, provides that an oil and gas interest owned separately from the surface title and which has not been sold, leased, mortgaged or transferred by recorded instrument for at least twenty years is deemed to have been abandoned by the severed oil and gas owner and thereupon becomes the property of the surface owner at the end of twenty years.