Mineral exceptions—landowners' issues
Mineral exceptions—landowners' issues

The following Property guidance note provides comprehensive and up to date legal information covering:

  • Mineral exceptions—landowners' issues
  • Who owns the minerals?
  • Excepting minerals
  • Due diligence
  • What are minerals?
  • Clear drafting required

Who owns the minerals?

The common law presumption is that a landowner owns everything below the surface down to the centre of the earth. Unworked mines and minerals are the property of the surface owner (with certain exceptions including gold, silver and petroleum (existing in its natural condition), which belong to the Crown, and coal which is vested in the Coal Authority).

Trespass and damages

Trespass is trespass at whatever depth it occurs, but damages for trespass at depth are likely to be nominal. In Star Energy, the Supreme Court held that the drilling of oil wells pursuant to a statutory licence was an actionable trespass where the oil company had not acquired the ancillary rights necessary to win the petroleum. Despite this, as compulsory purchase principles applied to the assessment of damages (rather than damages bases on the benefit to the trespasser), they were only nominal.

However, that finding was based on the parties’ agreement that ancillary rights would have been available had an application been made under Mines (Working Facilities and Support) Act 1966 (M(WFS)A 1966), rather than on the outcome of an actual application. It appears that anyone seeking to rely on Star Energy, as authority for the basis of assessment of damages, must be prepared to make an application, and to meet M(WFS)A 1966 criteria, to engage