The Dormant Mineral Act Versus The Marketable Title Act

When we receive cases about mineral interests, these two acts, etched in Ohio law, are the ones I see clients get most confused about. When clients visit our office regarding a mineral interest issue, it’s common that they have inherited or purchased a property with mineral interests (or they believe they do or desire to have them).

 

When the mineral interest is not looked after or not documented properly, it can be either abandoned (using the Dormant Mineral Act) or it can be extinguished (using the Marketable Title Act). 

 

As both terms can appear in a mineral interest case and often cause confusion, this article will summarize them. However, I advise you to contact an attorney if you think you have a matter that concerns a dispute on mineral interests. 

 

Furthermore, because the two acts can be quite a bit of information, I will further divide this summary into a series of articles that will hopefully make it more informative. 

 

Ohio Revised Code 5301.48: the Marketable Title Act:           

Marketable record title is defined as an “unbroken chain of title to an interest in land for forty years or more.” R.C. 5301.48. Here, the court will be looking for a consistent notice of an interest reserved for 40 years from “the root of title.” The root of title is defined as “that conveyance or other title transaction in the chain of title of a person which was the most recent to be recorded as of a date forty years prior to the time when marketability is being determined,” R.C. 5301.47(E), cited in Cattrell Family Woodlands v. Ragsdale, 2021-Ohio-4660, 184 N.E.3d 186, ¶ 15 (7th Dist.). This means if we are determining whether the Marketable Title applies, we find the most recent mineral interest reservation that tells us about the client’s mineral interest within 40 years. So if we are determining in 2023 whether mineral interests are extinguished via the Marketable Title Act and we find a mineral reservation from the client in 2000, because the reservation is less than 40 years old, the client’s interests would not be extinguished. However, whether a reservation is extinguished if it is older than 40 years is a finding that the court makes on a case-by-case basis, as every chain of title concerning a particular mineral interest is different. Ohio law has carved out quite a bit of exceptions based on the cases that have been brought into court to resolve matters involving the Marketable Title Act. 

 

Ohio Revised Code 5301.56: The Dormant Mineral Act 

This one requires a bit more action by the interested parties. Whereas the Marketable Title Act depends on when the reservations were recorded and how specific the reservations are in outlining the mineral interests at stake, the Dormant Mineral Act depends on the actions of the parties wanting to either have or keep mineral interests.

 

The Dormant Mineral Act’s goal is to reunite the interests on the surface of the land and the mineral interests under it. Legally, property can be divided and reserved in many different ways. It is not surprising that someone who owns the land or house on the surface may not own the minerals found under it.

 

Under the Dormant Mineral Act, the owner of the surface property may claim the mineral interests under the land if he or she can declare the interest abandoned. To declare the mineral interest abandoned, there are several steps to take for the court to acknowledge the process to be valid. That is a subject to be discussed further on! 

 

This summary is the beginning of a series distinguishing the two acts. They are designed to accomplish pretty much the same goal: to take mineral interests from one party who is not using them and give it to another who might. Of course, the parties are not obligated to “use the minerals.” What we refer to when we say use the minerals is to extract them from the ground via an oil and gas lease with a company for example. Our business-oriented legislative branch looks sympathetically at not leaving interests idle. If there is oil and gas, then it should be used. But this is not an obligation. These two acts require the mineral owner to keep an eye on his or her interest. 

 

Stay tuned for more information! 

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