People buying property, especially in the West, should be careful when it comes to the mineral rights under their land.

Officials recommend having a title company conduct a title search to determine who owns the mineral rights.

According to the El Paso County Assessor's Office, a property owner can tell if the phrase "excepting mineral interests" is included in the deed. On the assessor's Web site, http://land.elpasoco.com, "L/MR" will appear in the legal description.

That means the mineral rights could be owned by either the federal government - a 1916 homesteading law severed mineral rights under federal land - or a private entity.

If they are federal, the surface owner can stake a claim, in some circumstances, by contacting the local office of the U.S. Bureau of Land Management.

If the rights are privately owned, the surface owner must grant access to the property for exploration. If they are mined, the owner can receive royalties. In most cases, the property owner reaches an agreement, according to the BLM. Those that don't usually wind up in court.

Companies are required to restore any land disturbed to its former state.

According to the assessor's office, about 80 percent of properties in El Paso County don't have severed mineral rights. Those that do are larger properties in the eastern part of the county and the in the foothills.