A contract which grants “reasonable surface right privileges” to the owner of mineral rights may entitle the mineral rights holder to use strip-mining techniques to extract the coal over a limited portion of the subject property, according to a recent Supreme Court of Ohio decision.

In Snyder et al., v. Ohio Department of Natural Resources (Slip Opinion No. 2014.-Ohio-3942), the appellants sought a declaration that such language gave them the right to strip-mine a reasonable portion of the property over which they held the mineral rights. The Court of Common Pleas in Jefferson County ruled on summary judgment that the grant of “reasonable surface right privileges” did not include the right to use strip mining techniques.

The Supreme Court, in reviewing applicable law, and reversing and remanding the Court of Common Pleas decision, said that the intent of the parties should control.

Thus, in this instance at least, the court determined that the language “reasonable surface right privileges,” entitled the mineral rights holder to surface mine a reasonable portion of the property, where there is no clear evidence of the intent of the parties to the contrary. The case was remanded to determine to what extent surface mining would be reasonable under the circumstances (including acreage, contiguousness, duration, and quality of remediation).