Gold, silver, and other precious metals are the topic of conversation in some New York households as inflation continues to rise and the value of the dollar goes down. Buying gold and silver has forever been considered a solid value.

New York has not been known to be gold rich, but if you happen to strike gold in your back yard, can you keep it? What about oil or gas?

That depends.

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Getty Images

It's all about the mineral rights to your land. If you're renting, forget it, it's definitely not yours. But, if you own the land, do you own what's underneath your land?

What are mineral rights?

A mineral owner has the right to extract and use minerals found beneath the surface of a particular piece of land. Exactly which minerals are included depends on the terms of the specific conveyance (the document within which someone bought or sold the rights). The conveyance might include all the minerals under the land, or be limited to specified minerals.

When you buy a piece of land, what is under the land is, in most cases, yours as well. You can opt to sell the mineral rights to your land, or in some cases the rights were already sold before you bought the land!

New York Law

If you are purchasing property in an area with known oil and gas activity (central and western New York), it is important to research and obtain as much information as possible prior to entering into a contractual agreement. Ask the seller about any unplugged oil or gas well(s) on the property. New York State Real Property Law (RPP 8- 242.3) states that a seller with knowledge of the existence of an unplugged gas well must disclose this information to the purchaser prior to the sale. Consult with your attorney to review the property deed for potential oil and gas clauses.

Golden coins isolated on black background
Vladimir Voronin

If you strike gold, oil, natural gas, even water, or any other precious mineral, getting diggin' into research on who is going to get rich from it, because it may not be you!

Since sellers of land can convey only property that they own, each sale of the land after the minerals are separated automatically includes only the land. Deeds to the land made after the first separation of the minerals will not refer to the fact that the mineral rights are not included.

This means that, in most cases, you cannot determine whether you own the rights to the minerals under your land just by looking at your deed. Owners are sometimes surprised to find out someone else owns the rights to the minerals under their land. 

Make sure you own, or you know who owns the mineral rights to your land if this means anything to you!

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