The Acting Secretary of State to the Minister in Colombia (Philip)
Your 104 [122?], August 21, 5 p.m. [29, 10 a.m.?], and 128, September 5, 7 p.m.
Following for use in connection with petroleum agreement with Colombia:
In all States of the United States, petroleum deposits under lands owned outright by private individuals belong to the owner of the surface. Owner cannot be deprived of subsoil petroleum rights without just compensation. Petroleum deposits under lands owned by State or Federal Government belong to State or Federal Government as owner but not by virtue of sovereignty. State or Federal Government may and does lease petroleum rights to private individuals and may convey surface reserving petroleum rights.
Mineral deposits in general in land owned in fee [simple] by private individuals in all States belong to owner. Only exception is in case of gold and silver deposits in New York and Michigan, and perhaps few other States where regalian rights are asserted by State in limited form. At common law, such metalliferous deposits, though on lands of private individuals, belong to the Crown. Vested rights in private owners in these States it is believed, as to gold and silver deposits, would, in general, be protected. Other States and Federal Government do not make such claim to any minerals found in lands of private owners. Where lands are owned by State or Federal Government, mineral rights belong to State or Federal Government as owner which may lease rights or convey land reserving mineral rights.
Bring this statement of the law of the United States to the attention of Colombian authorities, and point out that, under the reciprocity of the proposed agreement for the protection of vested [Page 777] rights, the title of Colombians to petroleum deposits and mineral deposits in general in United States would be protected.
In view foregoing, Department naturally would not be opposed to Colombian law based on claim to Government ownership of subsoil deposits in lands belonging to Nation.