A methodological intervention to map mineral deeds and uncover subterranean power

Authors: Sophia Ford*, University of Oregon
Topics: Applied Geography, Land Use
Keywords: mineral rights, property
Session Type: Virtual Paper
Day: 4/10/2021
Start / End Time: 1:30 PM / 2:45 PM
Room: Virtual 40
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Public access to property records remains vital to local decision-making and is pre-emptive in safeguarding ecosystems. However, immense barriers deter people from locating mineral rights information. Mineral rights, a form of real property, exist below surface property and give the legal right-of-way to extract minerals from the ground. While surface maps uncover legacies of land theft what lies below the surface remains much more unknown and obscured. This research outlines techniques to bypass barriers to identify mineral claimants and uncover the accumulation of mineral rights and wealth deep below the surface of the earth. The process of identifying mineral claimants benefits Indigenous communities, environmental groups, homeowners, and activists by enabling them to exercise sovereignty and enter into agreements to protect the environment from subsurface land grabs. Willful obfuscation by the state through bureaucratic, financial, and spatial barriers fits within a larger system in the United States to maintain state and corporate accumulated wealth. The suggestions around barriers outlined in this research do not serve as a “solution” to the fraught legacy of private property; instead, a means to draw attention to those that benefit and control current systems of mineral rights.

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