122 U.S. 478 (1887)


Supreme Court of United States.

Decided May 27, 1887.

Attorney(s) appearing for the Case

Mr. Walter H. Smith for plaintiff in error. Mr. A.T. Britton and Mr. A.B. Browne were with him on the brief.

No appearance for defendant in error.

MR. JUSTICE FIELD, after stating the case as above, delivered the opinion of the court, as follows:

The instruction, as requested by the defendant, as a proposition of law is undoubtedly sound. It is substantially a brief repetition of the language of the statute. Its refusal, however, did not prejudice the defendant, for a valid location, as defined by the court, could only be found in favor of the plaintiff in case the vein discovered by the locators of the Adelaide claim extended to the ground in dispute. If such were the fact, the principle involved in the instruction asked, applied to that claim cut off the right asserted by the defendant. If there was an apex or outcropping of the same vein within the surface of the boundaries of the claims of the defendant, that company could not extend its workings under the Adelaide location, that being of earlier date. Assuming that on the same vein there were surface outcroppings within the boundaries of both claims, the one first located necessarily carried the right to work the vein.

But there are other grounds equally conclusive against the contention of the defendant below. The instruction asked assumes that the longest sides of its claims were their side lines. Such would, undoubtedly, be the case if the locations of the claim were along the course or strike of the lode. The statute undoubtedly contemplates that the location of a lode or vein claim shall be along the course of the lode or vein. Its language is: "A mining claim located after the 10th day of May, 1872, whether located by one or more persons, may equal, but shall not exceed, fifteen hundred feet in length along the vein or lode; but no location of a mining claim shall be made until the discovery of the vein or lode within the limits of the claim located. No claim shall extend more than three hundred feet on each side of the middle of the vein at the surface, nor shall any claim be limited by any mining regulation to less than twenty-five feet on each side of the middle of the vein at the surface, except where adverse rights existing on the 10th day of May, 1872, render such limitation necessary. The end lines of each claim shall be parallel to each other." Rev. Stat., § 2320.

When, therefore, a mining claim crosses the course of the lode or vein instead of being "along the vein or lode," the end lines are those which measure the width of the claim as it crosses the lode. Such is evidently the meaning of the statute. The side lines are those which measure the extent of the claim on each side of the middle of the vein at the surface. Such is the purport of the decision in Mining Co. v. Tarbet, 98 U.S. 463. The court there said, referring to the statute of 1866, 14 Stat. 251, and that of 1872, 17 Stat. 91: "We think that the intent of both statutes is, that mining locations on lodes or veins shall be made thereon, lengthwise, in the general direction of such veins or lodes on the surface of the earth where they are discoverable; and that the end lines are to cross the lode and extend perpendicularly downwards, and to be continued in their own direction either way horizontally; and that the right to follow the dip outside of the side lines is based on the hypothesis that the direction of these lines corresponds substantially with the course of the lode or vein at its apex on or near the surface. It was not the intent of the law to allow a person to make his location crosswise of the vein, so that the side lines shall cross it, and thereby give him the right to follow the strike of the vein outside of his side lines. That would subvert the whole system sought to be established by the law. If he does locate his claim in that way, his rights must be subordinated to the rights of those who have properly located on the lode." And again, that the end lines of the claim, properly so called, are "those which are crosswise of the general course of the vein on the surface."

Such being the law, the lines which separate the location of the plaintiff below from the locations of the defendant are end lines, across which, as they are extended downward vertically, the defendant cannot follow a vein, even if its apex or outcropping is within its surface boundaries, and, as a consequence, could not touch the premises in dispute, which are conceded to be outside of those lines and outside of vertical planes drawn downward through them.

The defendant relied on the trial upon patents of the United States issued for its several claims, but those patents contain an exception which would also seem to exclude its pretensions. It is as follows, after the habendum clause: "excepting and excluding, however, all that portion of said surface ground embraced by mineral survey No. 254 of the Adelaide mining claim, and also, excepting and excluding all veins, lodes, or deposits, the tops or apexes of which lie inside of the exterior lines of said Adelaide survey at the surface, extended down vertically, or which have been herein discovered or developed."

From a consideration of the whole case we are unable to perceive any error which would justify a reversal of the judgment below. It is accordingly



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