What Are Abandoned Minerals?
Abandoned Minerals Explained
Many mineral owners and landowners are familiar with the concept of “abandoned” minerals but are not quite sure what that means. According to the North Dakota Century Code, a mineral interest is considered abandoned if it is “unused” for twenty years. 1 A mineral is considered “used” under several different circumstances including production; operations are conducted “for injection, withdrawal, storage, or disposal of water, gas, or other fluid substances;” if the mineral interest is “subject to a lease, mortgage, assignment, or conveyance of the mineral interest recorded in the office of the recorder;” or if the mineral interest is subject to a recorded pooling or utilization agreement. 2
But what if your mineral interests are non-producing with no operations being conducted and haven’t been the subject of a recorded document for over twenty years? How can you prevent your interests from being “abandoned”? The final definition of a “used” mineral interest provides a safety net: a used mineral interest can also be an interest for which “a proper statement of claim is recorded.” 3
This “statement of claim” is more fully referred to as a “Statement of Claim of Mineral Interests” and it is governed by the same section of the North Dakota Century Code. This document essentially states the legal description of the mineral interest, the name and address of the interest owner, and is recorded in the proper county’s office of the recorder.
So what happens if a mineral is unused and a Statement of Claim is not recorded after twenty years? The surface owner of the same legal description can initiate an action to succeed to the ownership of the lapsed mineral interest. This process requires notice to the mineral interest owners of record as well as a quiet title action in District Court, giving the mineral owner an opportunity to contest the proceedings.
If you are a mineral interest owner or a surface owner and have questions or concerns about abandoned minerals or a Statement of Claim of Mineral Interests, please give us a call at 701-852-5224, or contact us here.
1 N.D.C.C. § 38-18.1-02.
2 N.D.C.C. § 38-18.1-03(1).
3 N.D.C.C. § 38-18.1-03(1)(f).