Surface Rights and Mineral Rights
In Texas, the mineral estate is a separate interest in land that can be severed from the surface estate. This severance occurs in two ways. The landowner sells the minerals and keeps the surface, or more commonly, the landowner sells the surface and keeps the minerals. During a sale, if the landowner fails to reserve the minerals when selling the surface, the buyer automatically receives any mineral interest the grantor owned at the time of conveyance.
Regardless of whether the surface and mineral estate are severed or united, the mineral estate dominates. Thus, the surface estate exists for the benefit and use of the mineral owner. If this was not the case, then the mineral estate would be worthless.
Mineral Agreements Grant Ownership Rights
Texas Courts have ruled that mineral leases are not rental agreements like the name implies. Instead, they are deeds granting limited ownership rights to mineral lessees for as long as the lease continues. Therefore, throughout the duration of the lease, the mineral lessee enjoys the same rights to use the surface as any other mineral owner. (The oil company or other entity leasing the minerals is the lessee and the mineral owner is the lessor)
Minerals: Not all Substances in Ground
Texas Courts have also ruled that property rights of the surface owner sometimes extend below the surface. Traditionally, under common law, all matter was divide into three categories — animals, vegetables and minerals (which included the soil and everything in it). Thus, if the surface and mineral estates were severed, the line of demarcation lay at the surface. This longstanding rule was re-examined by the courts in the cases of Acker v. Guinn and Reed v. Wylie. The term minerals or oil, gas and other minerals includes, as a matter of law, oil, gas and uranium.