Before you dig, know who owns the minerals under your land

MILES CITY, Mont. – The Bureau of Land Management is encouraging surface owners to properly verify their ownership of mineral rights before excavating sand, gravel, stone or scoria on their property, according to a BLM news release. 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.

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