Who owns the minerals under your land? Know before you dig
(MILES CITY, Mont.) – The BLM would like to encourage surface owners to properly verify their ownership of mineral rights before excavating sand, gravel, stone or scoria on their property. Surprisingly, these materials may or may not belong to the surface owner.
Millions of acres of private land in the Montana/Dakotas region involve a split estate; where the surface ownership is private but the mineral rights are retained by the federal government or other entities. Surface owners need to be aware that previous court cases may have resulted in changes regarding the mineral ownership after the original land patents were issued.
Misunderstandings regarding mineral rights ownership have led to several trespass cases in which landowners were selling gravel, scoria or landscape rock without first conducting the required reviews and obtaining the necessary permits from the BLM.
Trespassers can be held liable for damages to the United States and subject to restitution or fines. The BLM urges landowners planning to lease or sell these minerals to contact their local BLM office for assistance in determining mineral ownership.
For additional information contact BLM Geologists Carissa Shilling or Catharine Woodfield at 406-233-2800.
The BLM manages more than 245 million acres of public land located primarily in 12 Western states, including Alaska. The BLM also administers 700 million acres of sub-surface mineral estate throughout the nation. The agency’s mission is to sustain the health, diversity, and productivity of America’s public lands for the use and enjoyment of present and future generations. Diverse activities authorized on these lands generated $111 billion in economic output across the country in fiscal year 2019—more than any other agency in the Department of the Interior. These activities supported more than 498,000 jobs.