The Complicated Mineral Rights Issue (Mess?) in WV

Mineral rights in West Virginia are complex, to say the least. One might even call it “a mess.” It’s good for lawyers, not so good for the rest of us. MDN has pointed out many times before that depending on where you are in WV, there’s a pretty good chance the surface rights and the below-ground mineral rights were separated long ago. Statewide there are 352,247 owners of mineral rights that have been separated from surface rights. In the southern part of the state coal companies have owned the mineral rights going back years. Further up the state, like the northern panhandle area where there’s a lot of Marcellus and Utica Shale drilling, it’s a mixed bag. Surface rights owners justifiably feel put out because they often, by law, have to give up some of their surface land for a drill pad or roadway–with very little (if any) compensation.

It gets more complicated. Mineral rights can be split among family members or multiple companies going on for generations. A person (or company) may end up owning 1/100th of a share in the rights. Every mineral rights owner is liable to the tax man in WV, and if you don’t pay taxes on it–you can lose the rights at a tax sale. Some may lose rights they never knew they had! Add to that a relatively new wrinkle: nowadays mineral rights can apply to a particular layer of minerals (like the Marcellus). Oy vey! It’s enough to induce a migraine…

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