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A Critique of Partition of Mineral Estate in the United States

Lawrence E. Murphy, Proceedings of 5th Annual Rocky Mountain Mineral Law Institute (1960)


A and B hold the mineral interests to a section of ranch country in joint ownership of some type. The land lies in a comparatively new oil and gas producing state. A executes a lease to C covering part of the section. C, the oil company, conveys part of its interest to D, a machinery supplier. A later conveys part of his traditional 1/8th royalty interest to E. Can B, being fearful he is being shut out of his proper economic return from all these transactions, compel partition against A in order to divide their joint interests?

The major factors that determine whether a given court will decree partition, and if so, what kind, are these: (I) Theory of ownership, (II) Statutory provisions; (III) Type of mineral estate or interest that is sought to be partitioned; (IV) Parties seeking partition; (V) The specific remedy sought and stage of mineral development; and (VI) Independent judicial seasoning.

Since every case that reaches trial may involve all these and many more factors, it is only for the sake of convenience that they will be treated separately. After conducting research into the problems of partition, as related to mineral estates, the natural tendency has been to say that partition is allowed or denied according to each [544] particular jurisdiction's statutes and case law.1 However, notwithstanding the previous stateme