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Transfer of mineral rights

North Dakota statutory law specifies language necessary to transfer or retain mineral ownership.

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Mineral rights are real property rights and transfer similarly to surface rights, that is, the current owner can deed the mineral rights as part of a sale or gift; likewise, ownership of mineral rights can transfer a) as part of probating the will of deceased owner or b) according to the state's intestate succession law if the owner died without a will bequeathing the mineral ownership.  As a general rule, a deed transferring ownership of the surface rights also transfers the mineral rights.  Of course if the ownership of the mineral rights has already been severed from the surface rights, transferring ownership of the surface rights does not alter the ownership of the mineral rights.  Likewise, transferring severed mineral does not impact the ownership of the surface rights.

North Dakota law adds details as to how mineral rights can be transferred; this page reviews these North Dakota statutes.

North Dakota statutory law (as enacted by the State Legislature) specifies the language needed to transfer or retain ownership of mineral rights.  These statutes are codified at N.D.C.C.47-10-24 and -25.  Ownership of minerals can be conveyed as part of conveying ownership of the surface; the right to explore for and produce minerals can be conveyed as a mineral lease (in which case, ownership of the mineral rights is not conveyed), and ownership of minerals can be conveyed separately from ownership of the surface rights.  Each of these situations is addressed in the North Dakota statutes.

    In all deeds, grants, or conveyances of the title to the surface of real property executed on or after July 1, 1983, in which all or any portion of the minerals are reserved or excepted and thereby effectively precluded from being transferred with the surface, all minerals, of any nature whatsoever, shall be construed to be reserved or excepted except those minerals specifically excluded by name in the deed, grant, or conveyance and their compounds and byproducts. Gravel, clay, and scoria shall be transferred with the surface estate unless specifically reserved by name in the deed, grant, or conveyance.

    Key points in this statute:
    • When conveying ownership of the surface, if the seller of the surface retains ownership of the minerals, all minerals are retained by the seller.  The outcome is that the seller has severed the mineral rights from the surface rights by retaining ownership of the minerals while transferring the surface to the new owner.
    • However, individual minerals specified as "not being retained by the seller" will transfer to the new owner of the surface.
    • But note that ownership of gravel, clay and scoria will transfer with the ownership of the surface even if "all minerals" are retained by the seller; the only way for the seller to retain ownership of the gravel, clay or scoria (restated, the only way the seller can sever gravel, clay or scoria from the surface) is to specifically state that gravel, clay and scoria are being retained by the seller.
    • Bottom line -- the statute intends to keep ownership of gravel, clay and scoria with ownership of the surface; and the statute intends to keep ownership of all other minerals combined with all other minerals.


    No lease of mineral rights in this state shall be construed as passing any interest to any minerals except those minerals specifically included and set forth by name in the lease. For the purposes of this paragraph the naming of either a specific metalliferous element, or nonmetalliferous element, and if so stated in lease, shall be deemed to include all of its compounds and byproducts, and in the case of oil and gas, all associated hydrocarbons produced in a liquid or gaseous form so named shall be deemed to be included in the mineral named. The use of the words "all other minerals" or similar words of an all-inclusive nature in any lease shall not be construed as leasing any minerals except those minerals specifically named in the lease and their compounds and byproducts.
    • A lease of mineral rights will transfer only those minerals specified in the lease. 
    • An all-encompassing statement of minerals within a lease will be given no effect; only minerals specifically named in the lease will be considered leased.


    All conveyances of mineral rights or royalties in real property in this state, excluding leases, shall be construed to grant or convey to the grantee thereof all minerals of any nature whatsoever except those minerals specifically excluded by name in the deed, grant, or conveyance, and their compounds and byproducts, but shall not be construed to grant or convey to the grantee any interest in any gravel, clay, or scoria unless specifically included by name in the deed, grant, or conveyance.
    • Any other conveyance of minerals will convey all minerals except those specifically excluded in the document; for example, a sale of severed minerals will transfer the ownership all minerals except those specified as not being sold.  Again, the law is attempting to keep ownership of the minerals consolidated.
    • The only way to sever the ownership of a specific mineral from all other minerals is to specifically name the mineral that is being severed because the current mineral owner is retaining ownership of the specified mineral.
    • However, the conveyance of severed minerals does not convey gravel, clay or scoria unless gravel, clay or scoria is specified as being conveyed.
    • Again, the law is attempting to retain the combined ownership of the surface with gravel, clay and scoria.

The basic legal premise is that "if nothing is stated in the document, ownership of attached mineral rights transfer with the ownership of surface rights."  Realizing that mineral rights are often severed from surface rights, North Dakota law specifies interpretations for language that property owners might use when wanting to achieve an exception to this basic legal premise.

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Email: david.saxowsky@ndsu.edu

This material is intended for educational purposes only. It is not a substitute for competent legal counsel. Seek appropriate professional advice for answers to your specific questions.

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