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ConocoPhillips Refuses to Pay Mineral Owners

by Elizabeth Alford on October 29, 2015

ConocoPhillips continues its fight against paying an incapacitated woman and her brother for royalties on minerals that the courts say they own.

Related: Family Sues Texas for Stealing Mineral Rights

Minerva Clementina Ramirez and Leon Oscar Ramirez Jr. filed a suit against ConocoPhillips in November 2010 to recover their share of minerals produced by the company. Since then, the pair has been awarded millions of dollars but ConocoPhillips has refused to pay, filing multiple appeals including one to the state Supreme Court.

The brother and sister inherited the mineral rights from their grandmother, but some of the rights are being disputed because of the time that has passed. This scenario is not uncommon because over generations mineral rights frequently become separated from ownership of the land and untangling the web can get messy.

“The structure of this industry with landowners, royalty owners, oil companies, customers and on through the midstream and downstream relies on a series of contracts among parties whose interests are not always aligned,” said Bruce Bullock, director of the Maguire Energy Institute at Southern Methodist University. “The sheer number of interests results in more litigation.”

The oil downturn has not helped matters, as producers scramble to do all they can to survive. Some legal observers believe energy companies will play even tougher in the courtroom to protect their financial interests. The legal fight for many mineral owners can drag on with no end in sight.

For Minerva and Leon, this is certainly the case. Their latest ‘victory’ in May awarded them close to $5 million but it was short lived as ConocoPhillips quickly filed another appeal.

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