Are Mineral Rights Considered Real Estate?

‘Are mineral rights considered real estate’ is a common question for investors. Understanding investing in mineral rights may be complex and difficult to comprehend.  

Individuals can sell or transfer their mineral rights independently of property rights in the US. Sometimes the rights to subsurface property are distinct from those to above-ground or surface property.

It is crucial to understand what the contract specifies as real property versus personal property, as contractual agreements covering the sale, transfer, or leasing of oil and gas minerals being quite comprehensive.

This knowledge can be helpful in real estate transactions when purchasing or selling land. It is also essential to know if the property is in a natural resource-rich location or adjacent to it. 

What Are Mineral Rights?

To understand, “Are mineral rights considered real estate?” it is compulsory to understand mineral rights. 

The term “mineral rights” describes the authority to mine certain minerals from a piece of land. This can include the right to drill for oil, natural gas, precious metals, sand, quarry gravel, and gemstones. 

In many countries, the government is the sole owner of almost all of the land’s mineral rights. However, that is not the case in the US. A landowner also has mineral rights to that particular land. It can occasionally even belong to a business.

Mineral rights can be quite profitable. According to the United States Geological Survey, in 2020, American miners generated more than $82 billion in mineral production. 

Are Mineral Rights Considered Real Estate?

The possession of the rights to the minerals present in a piece of land, including gas and oil, may be considered real estate. A mineral right can be transferred apart from surface estate since it is a real property interest. It is possible to trade mineral rights that regard as real estate. 

Real property is, by definition, anything that permanently secures the land and the actual land itself. As a result, all structures, bodies of water, fences, trees, roads, and minerals are in the category of real property. 

Before selling the mineral rights, individuals must assess the type and length/depth of the rights. Lastly, they must also assess if the properties are considered real estate for tax reasons.

Mineral Rights vs. Surface Rights

In real estate jargon, surface rights relate to the land, that is, at the surface of a property, also known as the construction foundation. 

When you own a house or the land, your surface rights allow you to plant, landscape and build on it. You cannot presume that land comes with mineral rights if you want to buy it. 

One individual might own the surface rights while another has the mining rights (split property). The owner can do anything they want on the property’s surface as long as they are abiding by the law. 

Before signing an agreement, your lawyer should review the contract’s terms to ensure you are the owner of both surface and mineral rights.

If you want to drill on your property, you must possess the mineral rights. This can include the freedom to search for, use, and profit from any lucrative resources discovered.

4 Types of Mineral Rights

Since 2018, individuals can only trade real property. Whether you may exchange a mineral right for a more conventional real estate investment initially relies on are mineral rights considered real estate.

Mineral rights are classified as either operational interests or non-operating interests. In some jurisdictions, you can own a fee interest in surface rights without holding the right to mine the underlying minerals. 

A mineral estate is a distinct everlasting right that allows for underground minerals’ exploration, extraction, and sale. The mineral estate divides into smaller rights like mineral leases, royalties, production payments, and profitability interests.

Mineral Lease

A mineral lease is also known as a working interest or operating interest. It is an authorization to harvest minerals for a predetermined duration or until all the minerals have been taken. The expense of extraction is the lessee’s responsibility, and the lessor often keeps a royalty.


When a mineral estate’s owner leases it, the lessee receives a mineral lease, while its owner (lessor) keeps a royalty. The owner of the royalty receives a portion of the mined minerals sale without having to cover any associated expenditures. 

For taxation reasons, this right should likewise be regarded as real estate and is transferable.

Production Payment

Production payment includes the right to receive a specific proportion from the extraction of minerals over a particular period or up to a specific amount.

Profitability Interest

A profits interest deducts the cost of mineral extraction from the amount owed to the owner of the underlying mineral estate. A profit’s interest refers to real estate when there are no restrictions on the amount of time or delivery of minerals.

What Do Mineral Rights Include?

The ability to access and extract an individual’s minerals on the land’s surface is essentially the mineral rights. This implies that the mineral owner has the right to mine or drill an oil or gas well on the land or lease that right to another party.

Mineral extractions require roads and other infrastructure that are frequently authorized to be built by the mineral owner. 

Additionally, state and local regulations governing mining and drilling limit mineral extraction operations to safeguard the landowner and the environment.


In law, the term estate describes the collection of surface and mineral rights on a property. A “unified estate” consists of all rights held by the same owner. As both land and minerals underneath are real property, mineral rights are treated as real estate. 

If a highly valuable resource is underneath, the landowner may choose to sell the mineral rights to a third party while keeping the surface land rights for their own use. 

It is crucial to thoroughly review the deed when purchasing or selling land or other property to ascertain whether the mineral rights are legitimately the owner’s to sell or whether they actually belong to someone else.