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Geothermal the Resource, the Law and the Landman

Gerald J. Kitchen, Proceedings of 22nd Annual Rocky Mountain Mineral Law Institute (1976)

The subject at hand involves a resource which is basically a gas. Or a liquid. Or a solid. In any case, it either is, or is not, a mineral.1


To the dismay and consternation of landmen and lawyers alike, the pithy remark about the nature of geothermal resources quoted above is as true in 1976 as it was when it was made in 1963. Remarkably, despite the fact that mankind has been producing electricity from the resource since 1904,2 there is still widespread disagreement on such threshold issues as whether geothermal resources are minerals3 and who owns them.

Eight years ago, when the first paper on geothermal resources was presented to the Rocky Mountain Mineral [822] Law Institute,4 the need to resolve the foregoing questions may not have seemed as pressing as it does today. The intervening years, however, have seen a kaleidoscope of events which have profoundly rocked the nation's energy self-confidence and stimulated the search for all forms of domestic energy resources. Petroleum prices have gone up. Speed limits have gone down. Natural gas consumption no longer is encouraged. Conservation is the themeif one can get natural gas at all. The nation's greatest uranium boom is underway, seemingly unaffected by attempts in several states to take the question of its suitability for power production directly to the voters by initiative. And th