on March 23, 2012
by Brandon R. Cogswell

Automatic Abandonment of Mineral Interests? Maybe

The Ohio Dormant Mineral Act was enacted in 1989 and modified in 2006 to allow a landowner to reclaim an abandoned mineral interest in the property.  The Act requires a surface owner to provide notice by mail or publication to the owner of the mineral interest.  Once notice is provided, the surface owner can file an affidavit to reclaim the interest.  If the mineral rights owner wants to retain title, the owner must file a notice of preservation with the county recorder and serve that notice on the surface owner.  The Ohio State University Agricultural and Natural Resource Law Program wrote a great informational article about the Ohio Dormant Minerals Act and the requirements to recover abandoned minerals.
In 2008, the Morgan County Court of Common Pleas made a decision that could effect the rights of landowners who have a severed mineral interest in their property.  Wiseman v. Potts was a dispute between a landowner and a mineral rights owner.  The landowner, Wiseman, claimed that he owned 100% of the minerals on his 107-acre farm.  In 1947, 1/3 of the mineral interests were severed.  The Defendant, Potts, claimed that he owned the 1/3 interest because of the 1947 mineral severance.  The Morgan County Court of Common Pleas ruled in Wiseman’s favor.  It found that the 1947 mineral severance was abandoned since no one used it between 1969 and 1989.
Wiseman relied on Ohio’s Dormant Mineral Act of 1989, Ohio Revised Code, 5301.56.  Under the original statute, if an owner of a mineral interest fails to take certain actions concerning the severed interest for 20 years it is considered abandoned and automatically reverts back to the landowner.
The six specific actions are:
1) The mineral interest is the subject of a recorded title transaction
2) There is actual mineral production
3) The interest is used in for underground storage of natural gas
4) A drilling permit was issued to the mineral interest holder
5) A claim to preserve the interest is recorded
6) A separate tax parcel number is created by the county taxing authorities
Many landowners in the eastern half of Ohio are looking for ways to reclaim title to the minerals and other natural resources under their land.  Oil and Gas companies are paying a significant premium for the right to drill for oil and natural gas in Utica and Marcellus Shale formations.  In many instances, mineral interests are severed decades prior.  As a result, a landowner may have clean title to the mineral interest automatically.
Landowners who believe they have an abandoned mineral interest should seek the advice of an attorney.  It’s possible that they can bring a quiet title action similar to the action Wiseman brought in Morgan County and reclaim title to a mineral interest thought out of reach.

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