The first question is, whether the plaintiff can maintain this suit in equity without a prior adjudication in an action at law of its legal title. The bill alleges ownership and possession. It supported this allegation by patents from the United States of the first four claims mentioned in the bill, and proved that the defendants were working on a vein or body of mineral beneath the surface and extracting ores therefrom. The bill has a double aspect, to quiet title and to restrain defendants from removing any more ores from beneath the surface of these claims. Title by patent from the United States to a tract of ground, theretofore public, prima facie carries ownership of all beneath the surface, and possession under such patent of the surface is presumptively possession of all beneath the surface. This is the general law of real estate. True, in respect to mining property, this presumption of title to mineral beneath the surface may be overthrown by proof that such mineral is a part of a vein apexing in a claim belonging to some other party. But this is a matter of defense, and while proof of ownership of the apex may be proof of the ownership of the vein descending on its dip below the surface of property belonging to another, yet such ownership of the apex must first be established before any extralateral title to the vein can be recognized. This suit was not in the nature of an ejectment, to put the defendants out of possession of the space beneath the surface of plaintiff's claims from which they had extracted ore, but to quiet the title of the plaintiff to the vein in which they had been working, and to restrain them from mining and removing any more ore.
Sec. 3511, Rev. Stats., Utah, 1898, reads:
"SEC. 3511: An action may be brought by any person against another who claims an estate or interest in any real property adverse to him, for the purpose of determining such adverse claim."
"To maintain a suit of this character it was generally necessary that the plaintiff should be in possession of the property, and, except where the defendants were numerous, that his title should have been established at law or be founded on undisputed evidence or long continued possession, Alexander v. Pendleton, 8 Cranch, 462; Peirsoll v. Elliott, 6 Pet. 95; Orton v. Smith, 18 How. 263.
"The statute of Nebraska authorizes a suit in either of these classes of cases without reference to any previous judicial determination of the validity of the plaintiff's right, and without reference to his possession. Any person claiming title to real estate, whether in or out of possession, may maintain the suit against one who claims an adverse estate or interest in it, for the purpose of determining such estate and quieting the title."
The same question was considered and decided in the same way in respect to a suit, based upon a similar statute, in Iowa, in Wehrman v. Conklin, 155 U.S. 314. Of course, as pointed out in Whitehead v. Shattuck, 138 U.S. 146, such a statute cannot be relied upon in the Federal courts to sustain a bill in equity by one out of possession against one in possession, for an action at law in the nature of an action of ejectment affords a perfectly adequate legal remedy. There is nothing in the point decided in Boston &c. Mining Company v. Montana Ore Company, 188 U.S. 632, which, rightly considered, conflicts with the case of Holland v. Challen.
It will be further borne in mind that this question was raised by demurrer to the plaintiff's bill and by motion after the
Coming now to the merits, it is not open to dispute that the defendants were taking ore from beneath the surface of the
It is insisted that the findings of the Circuit Court should have bound and concluded the Court of Appeals upon questions of fact. The difficulty with this contention is that there is nothing to show what the Circuit Court found to be the facts. Whatever might have been suggested by the course of the argument at the hearing, the comments of the court upon such argument, or in announcing its decision, there is nothing in the record to indicate whether its decision was based upon a question of fact or a matter of law. The record only contains its decree, dismissing the bill. All else is a matter of surmise, except as may be inferred from the allegations of the pleadings and the scope of the testimony. While it is apparent that the Circuit Court must have based its decision upon one of two or three grounds, yet upon which it is not certain. The Circuit Court of Appeals made no separate finding of facts, but it filed an opinion which indicates the scope of its decision, and it is the decree of that court which is before us for consideration. The attitude of the case is very like that of one in which a trial court refers all things to a master who takes the testimony and reports it, with a general finding for the plaintiff or defendant, upon which report the trial court states its views of the facts and the law and enters its decree. An appellate court reviewing such decree will give its consideration to the conclusions stated by the trial court, irrespective of the report of the master, unless the issue be so narrow that sustaining the decree of the court necessarily involves an overruling of the master on a matter of fact.
From the opinion of the Court of Appeals it appears that it found that there was a broad vein. It says: "A careful examination
With reference to the conclusion of the Court of Appeals it is sufficient to say that if the testimony does not show that it is correct, it fails to show that it is wrong, and under those circumstances we are not justified in disturbing that conclusion. It is our duty to accept a finding of fact, unless clearly and manifestly wrong.
Treating this limestone as a single broad vein, it is apparent that the entire apex is not within the surface of either the Kempton or Ashland, but that it is also found in the "Old Jordan" and Mountain Gem, the properties of the plaintiff. The line which divides the surface of the claims of the defendants from the "Old Jordan" and Mountain Gem claims also bisects the vein as it comes to the surface. In other words, part of the apex is within plaintiff's claims and part within defendants'. In such a case the senior location takes the entire width of the vein on its dip. This was the conclusion of the
"Where two or more mining claims longitudinally bisect or divide the apex of a vein, the senior claim takes the entire width of the vein on its dip, if it is in other respects so located as to give a right to pursue the vein downward outside of the side lines. This is so because it has been the custom among miners, since before the enactment of the mining laws, to regard and treat the vein as a unit and indivisible, in point of width, as respects the right to pursue it extralaterally beneath the surface; because usually the width of the vein is so irregular, and its strike and dip depart so far from right lines, that it is altogether impracticable, if not impossible, to continue the longitudinal bisection at the apex throughout the vein on its dip or downward course; and because it conforms to the principle pervading the mining laws, that priority of discovery and of location gives the better right, as is illustrated in the provision giving to the senior claim all ore contained in the space of intersection where two or more veins intersect or cross each other, and in the further provision giving to the senior claim the entire vein at and below the point of union, where two or more veins with distinct apices and embraced in separate claims unite in their course downward. Rev. Stat. sec. 2336."
We fully endorse the views thus expressed. Discovery is the all-important fact upon which title to mines depends. Lindley, in his work on Mines, 2d ed., vol. 1, sec. 335, says:
"Discovery in all ages and all countries has been regarded as conferring rights or claims to reward. Gamboa, who represented the general thought of his age on this subject, was of the opinion that the discoverer of mines was even more worthy of reward than the inventor of a useful art. Hence, in the mining laws of all civilized countries the great consideration for granting mines to individuals is discovery. `Rewards so bestowed,' says Gamboa, `besides being a proper return for the labor and anxiety of the discoverers, have the further effect of
The two thoughts here presented are reward for the time and labor spent in making the discovery, thus adding to the general wealth, and incentive to others to prosecute searches for veins and mines. To take from the discoverer a portion of that which he has discovered and give it to one who may have been led to make an adjoining location by a knowledge of the discovery and without any previous searching for mineral is manifest injustice.
Again, as indicated in the quotation from the Court of Appeals, continuing the line of division shown upon the surface through the descending vein would be attended with great difficulty and uncertainty. Dealing with questions of this nature, a practical view must be taken. Veins do not continue of uniform width in their descent, but are often irregular and broken, and to attempt to make a division of ore according as it appears on the surface, or equally, would require the constant supervision of a court. It is not strange, then, that the custom of miners has been, as stated by the Court of Appeals, to regard and treat the vein as a unit and indivisible in point of width and belonging to the discoverer. This question has been before this court, as well as several of the courts in the mining districts. In Argentine Company v. Terrible Company, 122 U.S. 478, 484, we said:
"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."
In Mining Co. v. Mining Co., 5 Utah. 3, the question is discussed at some length by Chief Justice Zane. In the course of the opinion it is said (p. 54):
"Under the law of 1866 the surface ground was merely for the convenient working of the lode. The discoverer and first locator took the lode in its entirety. The law contemplated its segregation in its length, not in its width. It refers to lodes between the end lines, not to a part of a lode. No expression
See also St. Louis M. & M. Company v. Montana M. Company, Circuit Court of Appeals (9th Cir.), 44 C.C.A. 120; Empire State-Idaho M. & D. Company v. Bunker Hill M. & C. Company, Circuit Court of Appeals (9th Cir.), 52 C.C.A. 219. Also another suit between the same parties in the same court, 66 C.C.A. 99; Last Chance M. Company v. Bunker Hill S.M. & C. Company, Circuit Court of Appeals (9th Cir.), 66 C.C.A. 299.
But it is contended by the defendants that both the entries and patents of the Ashland and Kempton claims were prior in time to the entries and patents of the "Old Jordan" and Mountain Gem, and that such priority of entry and patent conclusively establishes the prior right of the owners to this broad vein; that the failure of the owners of the "Old Jordan" and Mountain Gem to adverse the applications of the owners of the Ashland and Kempton for patent was an admission that the latter had priority of right, and is conclusive against any present testimony as to the dates of the locations. We had occasion in the recent case of Mining Company v. Tunnel Company, 196 U.S. 337, to consider to what extent the issue of a mining patent worked an estoppel of the claims of third parties, and it is unnecessary now to repeat the discussion there had.
This case presents the question under different aspects. The entries and patents of the Ashland and Kempton claims
"An application for patent invites only such contests as affects the surface area. A possible union of veins underneath the surface cannot be foreshadowed at the time the application is made. When such a condition arises, it is adjusted by reference to surface apex ownership and priority of location not involving any surface conflict. The rule is well settled that conflicting adverse rights set up to defeat an application for patent cannot be recognized in the absence of an alleged surface conflict. Prospective underground conflicts are not the subject of adverse claims."
In New York Hill Company v. Rocky Bar Company, 6 L.D. 318, the Commissioner of the General Land Office declined to recognize an adverse claim where there was no surface conflict, saying (p. 320):
"In the event that patent should be issued upon said application and any question should thereafter arise as to the right under such patent to follow any vein or lode, as indicated in sec. 2322, it would be a matter for the courts to settle, and I am of the opinion, there being no surface conflict alleged in this case, and without considering any other question relating to the sufficiency of the so-called adverse claim, that you properly
The same ruling was made in Smuggler Mining Company v. Trueworthy Lode Claim, 19 L.D. 356.
Without determining what would be the effect of a judgment in an adverse suit in respect to subterranean rights, if any were in fact presented and adjudicated, it is enough now to hold that there is no presumption, in the absence of the record, that any such rights were considered and determined. Indeed, in the absence of a record, or some satisfactory evidence, it is to be assumed that the patents were issued without any contest and upon the surveys made under the direction of the United States surveyor general, and included only ground in respect to which there was no conflict. If the surface ground included in an application does not conflict with that of an adjoining claimant, the latter is in no position to question the right of the former to a patent. Take the not infrequent case of two claims adjoining each other, the boundary line between which is undisputed. If the owner of one applies for a patent the owner of the other is clearly under no obligation to adverse that application, even if under any circumstances he might have a right to do so. Other necessary conditions being proved, the applicant is entitled to a patent for the ground. Generally speaking, if the boundary between the two claims is undisputed the foundation for an adverse suit is lacking. While a patent is evidence of the patentee's priority of right to the ground described, it is not evidence that that right was initiated prior to the right of the patentee of adjoining tract to the ground within his claim.
Section 2336, Rev. Stat., makes provision for conflict as to certain subterranean rights. The last sentence of the section reads: "And where two or more veins unite the oldest or prior location shall take the vein below the point of union, including all the space of intersection." Argentine Company v. Terrible Company, supra. As the place of union may be far below the surface, this evidently contemplates inquiry and decision
It is further contended that there is no evidence of a valid location of the "Old Jordan" and Mountain Gem prior to the entries of the Ashland and Kempton. Location notices of the "Old Jordan" and Mountain Gem were admitted in evidence, that of the former being as follows:
"Notice. Jordan S.M. Co.
"The undersigned members of the Jordan Silver Mining Co. claim for mining purposes one share of two hundred feet each and one additional claim of two hundred feet for original discoverer, George R. Ogilvie, on this lead of mineral ore, with all its dips, spurs and angles, beginning at the stake situated one hundred feet northeast of Gardner's shanties in Bingham (Canion) Kanyon, in West Mountain, and running two thousand two hundred feet in a westerly direction along the side of said mountain, on a line with Bingham Canyon, and intend to work the same according to the mining laws of this mining district.
"Bingham Kanyon, Salt Lake City, Utah Territory, Sept. 17, 1863.
The Mountain Gem location was similar in form, dated August 20, 1864, and recorded August 24, 1864. Now these location notices were long before the time of the locations of the defendants' claims. It is further contended that the locations of the "Old Jordan" and Mountain Gem were anterior to the act of July 26, 1866 (14 Stat. 251), which was the first legislation of Congress in respect to the granting of mineral claims, and that while that act in its second section recognizes the rights of locators in so far as they have proceeded according to the local custom or rules of miners of the districts in which the mines are situated, yet in this case there is no evidence that these locations were made in conformity to any such local custom or rules. It is sufficient to say that by stipulation
Summing up our conclusions, the findings of fact as stated in the opinion of the Court of Appeals are not clearly against the testimony, and must, therefore, be sustained. According to those findings there was a single broad vein — the apex or outcroppings of which extended through the limits of some of the plaintiff's and defendants' claims — and not several independent veins. The ore which was being mined and removed by the defendants was taken from this single broad vein beneath the surface ground of claims belonging to the plaintiff. Where there is a single broad vein whose apex or outcroppings extend into two adjoining mining claims the discoverer has an extralateral right to the entire vein on its dip. Acceptance by the Government of location proceedings had before the statute of 1866, and issue of a patent thereon, is evidence that those location proceedings were in accordance with the rules and customs of the local mining district. The priority of right to a single broad vein vested in the discoverer is not determined by the dates of the entries or patents of the respective claims, and priority of discovery may be shown by testimony other than the entries and patents. In the absence from the record of an adverse suit there is no presumption that anything was considered or determined except the question of the right to the surface.
From these conclusions it is obvious that the decision of the Circuit Court of Appeals was right, and it is