Private Landlord-Tenant Relationship in British Coal and American Oil: A Theory of Mineral Leases

A very great and, at first glance, confusing variety of tenancy arrangements for mineral resources can be observed around the world. Substance and form may vary not only from one country to another, but even from one region to another within the same country. In addition, the type of tenancy may vary from one mineral to another, largely determined by an accident of hstory, possibly a history going back to ancient times. One basic and obvious distinction to be made, however, is between public and private ownership. Public ownership of mineral resources is the rule worldwide, private ownership the exception. Yet by far the most important examples of extractive industries in modern economic history, British coal and American oil, both developed under private mineral property although it was brought to an end, in the former case, by nationalization in 193 8. This paper will deal with these two exceptions whch wiIl, incidentally, confirm the rule.

By: B. Mommer

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