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Old 08-03-2015, 10:16 AM
758 posts, read 796,894 times
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I have heard that it is almost impossible to obtain mineral rights when purchasing property in east Tennessee. Is this true in the rest of Tennessee?

I also read somewhere that if there is no activity on the mineral rights for 20 years, the title passes to the property owner. True or not?
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Old 08-03-2015, 10:20 AM
Location: Sugarmill Woods , FL
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Old 08-03-2015, 11:22 AM
Location: Chattanooga, TN
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The problem is statewide, and is because of the extraordinary definition of "mineral" used by TN. specifically, anything of value in or on the land is considered a "mineral". This includes everything from the typical oil and coal to sandstone "field stone" used as building materials. Trees growing above the surface do not count, and water above or below the surface is separate.

Yes, in TN, rocks are legally defined to be minerals.

Even the state itself isn't immune to this problem. A while back the state acquired land and began construction the Cumberland Trail State Park... until a mining company showed up with bulldozers and dump trucks and obliterated everything. The state filed a lawsuit and promptly lost. Then they appealed and won. Finally there was an out-of-court settlement where the State purchased the "rock" portion of mineral rights outright and re-wrote the easement to limit further mineral rights to subsurface extraction only (tunnel mining, wells, etc.). Since this case a law was passed requiring rock harvesters to post a bond used to pay to return the surface back to the condition it was in before mining activities.

That said, it is not impossible. Technically the rights do revert to the surface owner after 20 years of inaction, but it isn't automatic. TN law 60-5-108 state that if a mineral rights owner has abandoned the claim for 20 years the surface rights owner can petition for a unification of the rights. But this requires:
- No mining or any other activity for 20 years (ask current owner or neighbors, but this isn't a guarantee)
- Taxes are at least 20-years past due (simple call or letter to courthouse)
- You would have to file notices in the local paper, apply with the court, and pay a fee ($30)

Important fact: whether or not mining activity has occurred in the past 20 years, or even if it's never occurred, if the mineral rights owner has been paying property taxes their claim is still in force.

If you are really interested in a piece of land, do your research. This will at a minimum require a trip to the courthouse (be friendly - most clerks are there to help), and at a maximum hiring a Real Estate attorney. If a mineral rights claim is found the first question to ask is whether the taxes are past due.

Last edited by jwkilgore; 08-03-2015 at 11:44 AM..
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