IP land purchase delayed

Published 12:00 am Saturday, August 19, 2006

NATCHEZ &8212; It is taking the county more time than expected to acquire the property now owned by International Paper.

The delay comes from a discrepancy between surface land ownership and mineral ownership. IP owns the surface land, the land on which they built the plant. However, the mineral rights, the right to drill for oil or natural gas, are still held by the people who sold IP the land.

Adams County wants to buy the land on which the IP plant sits and is working with a company that wants to retrofit the power plant, County Attorney Bob Latham said Friday.

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The county has a contract with the company to acquire the land, Latham said, but the county cannot acquire any land without the company doing so.

When IP purchased the land on which the factory now sits, there were three main tracts of land they bought, Latham said. While IP still owns the land, the previous owners still retain the mineral rights.

Jerry Ogden, a Natchez independent engineering geologist, said he and several oil and gas industry participants want to drill for oil on the land.

Latham said the sticking point is in the details of IP&8217;s contract. In the deed to IP, there are restrictions on drilling, he said.

&8220;They put language in there saying they would only drill nine wells on this particular tract,&8221; Latham said. &8220;It&8217;s our position they don&8217;t have the right to drill any more wells.&8221;

Ogden said he thought the county was interpreting the deed incorrectly.

&8220;There are no limits on the number of wells you can drill on that property,&8221; Ogden said Thursday.

Ogden said he is in the process of finishing geological work to find initial locations to drill and should be done in the next two to three weeks.

He started preparing the mineral rights lease when IP announced it was shutting down, he said.

After working on the project and staying in contact with IP for several years, he sent a letter to IP June 14 asking for surface access to the minerals and was given the go-ahead, he said.

&8220;I&8217;ve got money and time invested in this,&8221; Ogden said. &8220;I&8217;m not here to butt heads with them.&8221;