Laws regarding oil ownership may vary in each state but the basic premise is that whoever owns the land, owns everything underneath it as well. However, it must be noted that not all drilling companies own the lands they seek to work on. Sometime the owner of the land may not want to pay for the cost of extracting the oil underneath his property but may still want to retain ownership of the land. In cases like this, there is such a thing as “mineral rights.” The company and land owner come up with a legal document that allows the company to drill and extract oil even if they don’t own the property.
It is not correct that the surface land owner automatically owns rights to the subsurface or mineral rights. Sometimes they do, sometimes they don’t. It would be possible, in cases where mineral rights supercede surface rights, for the mineral right owner to do whatever (mining, drilling) irrespective of homes or businesses on the surface.
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