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Surface owner rights

Many people who own real estate in California do not consider whether someone else may have a right to use their property. However, if they are not buying the mineral rights as well as the surface rights, there could be repercussions.

According to Geology.com, a speculator or mining company could buy the mineral rights without ever intending to drill on the land. Instead, they are viewing the purchase as an investment. In this case, the issue may never come up for an owner, or the consecutive owners. However, ownership of the mineral rights provides reasonable access to the surface of the property. This may allow a mining company to set up an operation anywhere on the land at any time, regardless of the effects it has on the surface owner's property values. 

The State of California's Department of Conservation explains that the owner of the surface rights should not automatically assume that the company that intends to drill actually has the rights it claims. There is a provision in the California Civil Code for the termination of dormant rights that may apply. Other common law limitations or statutory restrictions may also be factors that allow a property owner to dispute the claim.

It may also be possible that the surface owner's deed includes limitations to the use of the property by the mineral rights owner, or there may be some other document that affects the title to the property. For example, the seller of the rights may have made provisions for where the extraction may occur, or for the clean-up requirements that the company must fulfill once the operation has concluded.

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