Basic Mineral Law in Louisiana
Property owners in Louisiana need to have a basic understanding of their mineral rights. The Louisiana Mineral Code governs minerals in Louisiana (Title 31 of Louisiana Revised Statutes).
What is a mineral?
Minerals include oil and gas, gravel, soil itself, sulfur, underground water, and “other substances occurring naturally in or as a part of the soil, or geological formations on or underlying the land.”
Is it possible to own the minerals under your land?
This question is often asked, and in Louisiana, the answer is “no.” Under our law, you cannot own minerals under your land until you pump the oil and gas out of the ground and put it in a tank or a pipeline. Ownership begins with possession. Prior to ownership, the landowner only has a “mineral servitude.” A mineral servitude is the right to explore for minerals and bring them to the surface. Usufruct of a property does not give the usufructuary a mineral servitude; ownership of a mineral servitude passes to the heirs or “naked owners.”
Can mineral rights be kept if the land is sold?
The biggest question in the conveyance of property is whether the Seller may sell his or her land and keep the mineral rights (which is actually a mineral servitude). In order for the Seller to do so, the Act of Cash Sale (also known as a deed or title) must clearly state that the Seller is “reserving all minerals.” Minerals may be reserved in whole or fractional parts of a mineral servitude. They may also be limited to oil and gas minerals only. The failure to specifically reserve a mineral will result in the mineral being conveyed to the Buyer. It is important that the Purchase Agreement also states the reservation of minerals for the Seller. Such a reservation does not affect the Buyer’s surface rights.
How long can mineral servitude be maintained?
The next issue for a Seller who reserves minerals is the time period for which they may maintain their mineral servitude. A mineral servitude will pass to the current surface owner after ten (10) years of “non-use” of the servitude. The drilling of a well is a “use” that starts the running of another ten-year prescriptive period. The interruption occurs on the date when actual production begins, and prescription commences anew from the date of cessation of actual production.
The owner of a mineral servitude may enter into a “mineral lease,” whereby the owner (lessor) grants to the lessee the right to explore for and produce minerals. The primary term is usually three (3) years and can never be more than ten (10) years. A mineral lease terminates at the end of the primary lease or, if there is production, when the well stops producing in “paying quantities.”