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In the Colorado case of Farrell v. Sayre
. The court ruled that the mineral reservation did not include sand and gravel and concluded, “It seems to be the general rule that where the surface of land is sand and gravel, a straight mineral reservation does not include the sand and gravel.”
It appears that Mississippi follows the general rule.
In short, a mineral owner or a lessee of the mineral estate, in the absence of additional rights expressly conveyed or reserved, may use as much of the surface as is reasonably necessary to exercise its right to recover minerals, without liability for surface damage. Union Prod. Co. v. Pittman, 245 Miss. 427, 433-34, 146 So.2d 553, 555 (1962)
. This right means that the mineral lessee can "go on the land and do all those things necessary and incidental to the drilling of a well" and has the absolute right to select the place for drilling the well. Id.
at 434, 555, 146 So.2d 553. However, the mineral lessee will be liable to the surface owner for damages
if the lessee wantonly or negligently destroys the land or uses more land than is reasonably necessary for its mineral exploration and production operations. Id.
This has been termed the "prudent operator standard." Sun Oil Co. v. Nunnery, 251 Miss. 631, 645, 170 So.2d 24, 31 (1964)
. In discussing this limitation on the mineral owner's surface use, it has been said that the mineral owner must not be unreasonable, oppressive, or capricious in its use of the land. Union Prod. Co.,
245 Miss. at 434, 146 So.2d at 555. While surface owners claiming damages occasionally have characterized the mineral owner's destruction of the surface as a trespass or a nuisance
, our supreme court has consistently addressed this issue by examining whether the mineral owner wantonly or negligently harmed the surface or used more land than reasonably necessary for its operations.3 See Charles F. Hayes & Assoc. v. Blue, 233 So.2d 127, 128 (Miss.1970)
; Placid Oil Co. v. Byrd, 217 So.2d 17, 18 (Miss.1968)
. It must be emphasized that this right enures to the mineral estate in the absence of surface leases or other agreements expressly granting the mineral owner rights to use the surface of the land. Reynolds v. Amerada Hess Corp., 778 So.2d 759, 762
(¶ 12) (Miss.2000). Surface leases, surface damage agreements, or other contractual arrangements favoring the mineral estate merely expand the mineral owner's extant right to use as much of the surface as is reasonably necessary to conduct its operations. Id.
908 So.2d 848
EOG RESOURCES, INC., f/k/a Enron Oil & Gas Company, Nat Prestage, Douglas McKibben and Crownpointe Resources, Inc., Appellants
XXXXX XXXXX and Nita Turner, Appellees.