Mineral rights represent the legal rights to explore for and produce the resources below the surface. Ownership of mineral rights give the right to extract many valuable commodities such as gold, silver, uranium, copper, nickel, palladium, aluminum, iron, lead, molybdenum, platinum, tungsten, zinc, and diamonds. Here in the United States, the most common, and most important uses of mineral rights include the rights to energy sources such as coal, oil, natural gas, and geothermal. Mineral rights are separate from surface rights. Surface rights are the legal rights to work on the surface of the land, and only pertain to ownership on the surface. It is easy to separate mineral rights and surface rights, and in fact, many mineral right owners retained their mineral rights long after their surface rights were sold. Once retained, mineral rights can be owned forever, except in Louisiana where "prescriptions" dictate that retained mineral rights only last 10 years once the surface has been sold. The United States of America is the only country in the world that has granted the rights to own minerals to private parties. This Law has led to wonderful prosperity in the United States. It is estimated that over 1 million private land owners in America have royalty interests on their property today! Often, mineral rights are divided many times with each owner owning only a fraction of the interest in said property. In order for such lands to be leased, the oil company must get signatures from each owner on the title.
A Lease is a formal agreement between two or more parties where the owner of the land grants another party the right to drill or mine and produce commodities such as oil, in exchange for; up front bonus payment, payment for surface damages(if applicable), and a royalty for every product sold.