Mines and Minerals Law and Legal Definition

The terms "mine" and "mineral" are commonly used words that are difficult to precisely define. Generally, the place where a deposit of minerals is found may be called a mine, or the term may be limited to underground excavations. An oil and gas well is usually not considered a mine, while a rock quarry often is.

Strictly defined, the term "mineral" includes all inorganic substances, as well as hydrocarbons, such as oil and natural gas, and carboniferous deposits, such as coal. In contracts, minerals are defined more narrowly. Water, sand, gravel, limestone, oil and natural gas are not usually considered minerals, unless provided otherwise, although salt water and "mineral water" may be.

Minerals in the ground are treated as real property, but, after removed from the land, they become personal property. A landowner who believes his or her property may contain deposits of valuable minerals may enter into an exploration agreement with a person or organization interested in prospecting the land. The agreement may contain a covenant to test and explore the land, or it may be a mere license granting the right to enter and explore for minerals. An option to lease or purchase the land, or the minerals in the land, may also be granted as part of the transaction.

The owner of land may convey title to minerals separately from the title to the surface. The conveyance is governed by the same law as sales of land and should be notarized and recorded. A mining lease is particular type of contract similar to both a grant and a lease. It is not a sale of the minerals in place, but only a right to mine and remove them in accordance with the lease.