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U.S. Supreme Court

Enterprise Mining Co. v. Rico-Aspen Cons. Mining Co., 167 U.S. 108 (1897)

Enterprise Mining Company v. Rico-Aspen Consolidated Mining Company

No. 287

Argued April 7-8, 1897

Decided May 10, 1897

167 U.S. 108


The clear import of the language of Rev.Stat. § 2320 is to give to a tunnel owner, discovering a vein in the tunnel, a right to appropriate fifteen hundred feet in length in that vein, which right arises upon the discovery of the vein in the tunnel, dates by relation back to the time of the location of the tunnel site, may be exercised by locating the claim the full length of fifteen hundred feet on either side of the tunnel, or in such proportion thereof on either side as the locator may desire, and is not destroyed or impaired by the failure of the owner of the tunnel to adverse a previous application for a surface patent before the discovery of the vein.

This case involves the construction of § 2323, Rev.Stat., which reads as follows:

Page 167 U. S. 109

"Where a tunnel is run for the development of a vein or lode or for the discovery of mines, the owners of such tunnel shall have the right of possession of all veins or lodes within 3,000 feet from the face of such tunnel on the line thereof, not previously known to exist, discovered in such tunnel, to the same extent as if discovered from the surface, and locations on the line of such tunnel of veins or lodes not appearing on the surface, made by other parties after the commencement of the tunnel, and while the same is being prosecuted with reasonable diligence, shall be invalid; but failure to prosecute the work on the tunnel for six months shall be considered as an abandonment of the right to all undiscovered veins on the line of such tunnel."

The facts are these:

The Group tunnel site, under which the Enterprise Mining Company, the defendant and appellant, claims the right to the ores in controversy, was located on July 25, 1887, and the certificate of location was filed in the office of the county clerk and recorder of the county in which the location was made on August 29, 1887.

The Vestal lode mining claim, under which the plaintiffs (the appellees) claim title, is based upon a discovery made on March 23, 1888. The claim was located on April 1, 1888, and the location certificate was filed for record on April 3, 1888.

The situation of the properties is sufficiently disclosed by the following diagram:

Page 167 U. S. 110


The ore in controversy is within the limits of the tract, A, B, C, D. As to this tract, the two locations, the Vestal and Jumbo No. 2, conflict. The owners of the Vestal claim made application in 1890 for a patent. No adverse proceedings

Page 167 U. S. 111

were instituted by the defendant, and a patent for the claim was issued on February 6, 1892. At the time of these proceedings no discovery of a vein in the tunnel had been made. But on June 15, 1892, a vein was discovered 1,920 feet from its portal at the place marked "Discovery" on the diagram. Immediately thereafter, the defendant caused the boundaries of the claim Jumbo No. 2 to be located upon the surface of the earth, and a certificate of location to be duly recorded, in which it claimed 54 feet along the vein to the northeasterly of the tunnel, and 1,446 feet southwesterly. The position of this claim appears sufficiently on the diagram. The portion of this vein within the limits of the Vestal claim is about 750 feet from the line of the tunnel. This suit was commenced in the Circuit Court of the United States for the District of Colorado, on September 3, 1892, and was decided by that court in favor of the plaintiffs. 53 F.3d 1. On appeal to the court of appeals this decision was reversed, 66 F.2d 0, and the case remanded for further proceedings. Thereupon the case was brought here on a writ of certiorari.

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