Dormant Mineral Act VS Marketable Title

The Dormant Mineral Act versus the Marketable Title Act Part II

           Last month I wrote about two Acts written into Ohio Law that are designed for people to either keep or acquire mineral interests.  If you missed the 1st article of the series Click Here)

Both the Dormant Mineral Act and the Marketable Title Act are geared toward getting the mineral owners to use the minerals. Mineral owners can keep their minerals by preserving them and potentially either leasing or selling them to a company. Or, people who own the surface but do not have rights to the minerals under that surface parcel can acquire the minerals by declaring the mineral interests abandoned by their owners using the Dormant Mineral Act. This week, I will get more specific on the Dormant Mineral Act (DMA). 

I- Mineral Ownership: 

         Typically the clients we see come into mineral ownership as a result of a mineral reservation made by a relative. In Ohio Law, if the property deed is not specific about a mineral reservation, it may be that the surface parcel owner is also the owner of the minerals under that surface parcel, depending on the chain of title. Typically, some previous owners of the property sold the surface but reserved the mineral rights for themselves, their heirs, and assigns.

II- How to find out who owns the minerals?

           If a surface owner recently bought a property and, for example, is interested in leasing the minerals to a company but is not sure whether or not he or she owns the minerals, a place to start is to search court public records of the property to check for any mineral reservations. 

Because this chore can become overwhelming and somewhat of a wild goose chase, it is often more efficient to request a title search. Here, the researcher will compile the property files, conveyances, and reservations and send a summary and documents to the client or the client’s lawyer. It is often less time-consuming than trying to find the records on one’s own.

III- The minerals are not owned by the surface parcel owner. Now what? 

           If the minerals are owned by someone other than the surface owner, and the surface owner still would like to acquire them, the surface owner may attempt to perform an abandonment process for the minerals using the statutory process outlined in the Dormant Mineral Act. 

To do this, the surface owner must find, or attempt to find while performing what the Dormant Mineral Act terms a “reasonably diligent search”, the party who holds or may hold the mineral interest. The address may be accessible or the surface owner might have to engage in some work on the county’s public records to find it. One of the requirements that the Court will enforce is whether the surface owner engaged in a “reasonably diligent search.” What exactly a reasonably diligent search means is evaluated on a case-by-case basis but it will most likely involve a lot of time of searching, hence possibly considering hiring someone to conduct a title search. 

If the surface owner cannot find an address of the presumed mineral interest owner or his/her heirs (the sufficiency of the search has been assessed by several courts), then the surface owner may publish a notice in a generally circulated county newspaper where the property is located, stating that the surface owner intends to declare the mineral interest abandoned.

The mineral interest owner must file a statement to preserve the interest within 60 days of receiving the notice of intent to abandon from the surface owner or 60 days from when the newspaper notice was published. If the mineral owner or heir does not claim his or her interest by the 60-day deadline, the surface owner must file an affidavit of failure to file for the interest to be abandoned. After this is filed at the county recorder’s office, the right to mineral ownership is vested in the surface owners.

Please note that this is a short, bird’s eye view explanation and every case is different. 

This article is not meant to and does not provide legal advice. Please contact an attorney if you believe you may have mineral interest matters. 

Stay tuned for the next informational article! 

Annette Rodriguez Carreras

Junior Attorney

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