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U.S. Supreme Court

Walrath v. Champion Mining Company, 171 U.S. 293 (1898)

Walrath v. Champion Mining Company

No. 280

Argued April 22, 1898

Decided May 31, 1898

171 U.S. 293


On the 28th of April, 1871, on a previous location made in 1857, the Providence Gold and Silver Mining Company obtained a patent in which it was recited that it was "the intent and meaning of these presents to convey" to the company "the vein or lode in its entire width for the distance of 3,100 feet along the course thereof." Under that act, a patent could be issued for only one vein, but the Act of May 10, 1872, c. 152, gave to all locations theretofore made as well as to all thereafter made all veins, lodes and ledges, the top or apex of which lies inside of the surface lines. September 29, 1877, the Champion Mining Company made a location upon the Contact Vein, which overlapped the Providence location both as to surface ground and lode. In 1884, a dispute took place which brought about relocation of the lode line of the Champion Company, but eventually the conflicting claims resulted in this suit. Held,

(1) That the extent of the rights passing under the act of 1866 was decided by this Court in Mining Co. v. Tarbet, 98 U. S. 463, viz.,

that "the right to follow the dip of the vein is bounded by the end lines of the claim."

(2) That that right stops at the end line of the lode location, terminated by vertical lines drawn downward.

(3) That the original location and lode determined those end lines.

The following propositions, announced in Del Monte Mining Co. v. Last Chance Mining Co., ante, 171 U. S. 55, are affirmed with the addition that the end lines of the original veins shall be the end lines of all the veins found within the surface boundaries:

"First, the location as made on the surface by the locator determines the extent of rights below the surface. Second, the end lines, as he marks them on the surface, with the single exception hereinafter noticed, place the limits beyond which he may not go in the appropriation of any vein or veins along their course or strike. Third, every vein 'the top or apex of which lies inside of such surface lines extended downward vertically' becomes his by virtue of his location, and he may pursue it to any depth beyond his vertical side lines, although in so doing he enters beneath the surface of some other proprietor. Fourth, the only exception to the rule that the end lines of the location as the locator places them establish the limits beyond which he may not go in the appropriation of a vein on its course or strike is where it is developed that, in fact, the location has been placed not along, but across, the course of the vein. In such case, the law declares that those which the locator called his side lines are his end lines, and those which he

Page 171 U. S. 294

called end lines are in fact side lines, and this upon the proposition than it was the intent of Congress to give to the locator only so many feet of the length of the vein, that length to be bounded by the lines which the locator has established of his location."

There is no merit in the contention that, by agreement, by acquiescence, and

by estoppel, the line f-g on the plan has become the end line of the two claims. It is the end lines alone which define the extralateral rights, and they must be straight lines, not broken or curved lines, and to such the right on the vein below is strictly confined.

The relative situation of the two properties, and the portion of the ledge in controversy, is shown by the following 171 U. S. No. 1, the disputed section being contained between the lines thereon marked "Line claimed by Providence" and "Line claimed by Champion"

|171 U.S. 293fig1|


The figures marked "New Years" and "New Years Extension" represent the surface of the mining properties owned by defendant, while that marked "Providence Mine" represents the surface of the patented ground of the plaintiff.

The action was brought May 24, 1892, to recover $300,000 damages for ore extracted from the ledge and carried away by the defendant, and for an injunction against further trespasses thereon.

Upon motion of appellee, the action was removed to the United States circuit court as involving a federal question, where the complainant recast his pleadings so as to separate the action into a bill in equity, upon which the action is now proceeding, and an action at law for the damages alleged.

The suit in equity was tried in the circuit court, and decided mainly in favor of the appellee.

From this decree the appellant appealed to the Court of

Page 171 U. S. 296

Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, where it was modified, and as modified affirmed.

The appellant now brings the case to this Court upon writ of error from the court of appeals.

The appellant's title is deraigned as follows: in 1857, under the miners' rules and customs then in force, thirty-one locators located thirty-one hundred feet of the Providence or Granite lode. By mesne conveyances, the title to this location became vested in the Providence Gold & Silver Mining Company, and on April 28, 1871, that company obtained a patent to thirty-one hundred feet of the lode, and for surface ground, as described in the patent.

The title thus granted to the Providence Gold & Silver Mining Company was, before the commencement of this suit, vested in the appellant.

The ledge, as granted by the patent, extends thirty feet north of the north surface line of the location, and some six hundred and eighty feet south of the south surface line.

The patent conveyed only the Providence ledge and the surface ground. All other ledges contained within the surface lines were expressly reserved.

It is also contended by appellant that, by the Act of Congress of May 10, 1872, exclusive possession of all the surface included within the lines of the location was granted to the owners of the Providence, together with all other lodes or ledges having their tops or apexes within such surface lines. This grant, of course, included the Contact vein, subsequently discovered within said boundaries and now constituting the bone of contention in this action.

The Contact vein is shown in the figure, and crosses the surface line f-g of the Providence location.

On September 29, 1877, the appellee and defendant, the Champion Mining Company, made a location upon the Contact vein, called the "New Years Extension Mine." This location overlapped, both as to surface ground and lode, upon the Providence location -- that is, the lode line and surface lines of the said New Years Extension extended to the south of the boundary line, f-g, of the Providence location.

Page 171 U. S. 297

The New Years Extension mine is shown in the following 171 U. S. No. 2, together with the conflict caused by the overlap (the conflicting surface portion being shaded, and showing the Contact vein passing through it).

|171 U.S. 293fig2|


In the year 1884, the complainant and his co-owners objected to the overlap, and demanded of the Champion Mining Company that it abandon all claims to the surface and lode to the south of the Providence boundary line above described. Thereupon, in the month of November, 1884, John Vincent, the superintendent of the defendant, the Champion Mining Company, under the authority and by the direction of the said company, relocated the New Years Extension mine by a notice of relocation, in which the fact of the overlap under the original location was particularly recited, and the lines were readjusted so as to avoid the overlap, and to conform to said line f-g of the Providence mine, as shown on 171 U. S. 1.

In the notice of relocation, the lode line was particularly described as follows:

"The lode line of this claim, as originally located, and which I hereby relocate, is described as follows: commencing at a point on the northerly bank of Deer Creek, which point is 60 feet south, 11 degrees 45 minutes east, of the mouth of the New Years tunnel, and running thence along the line of the lode towards the N.E. corner of the Providence mill, about S., 46 degrees 15 minutes east, 200 feet, more or less, to a point and stake on the northerly line of the Providence mine, patented, designated as 'Mineral Lot No. 40,' for the south end of said lode line."

It also contained the following statement:

"And whereas part of this claim, as originally described and as hereby relocated, conflicts with the rights granted by letters patent of said Providence mine, said lot No. 40, now therefore so much of this claim, both of lode and surface ground, as originally conflicted or now conflicts with any portion of the surface or lode claims or rights granted by said patent, is and are hereby abandoned, which portion of this claim so abandoned is described as follows: all that portion of the above-described New Years Extension claim for surface and lode which lies south of the northern boundary line of said

Page 171 U. S. 298

Providence mine, which runs north 43 degrees 10 minutes east, across the southeastern corner of this claim."

The New Years Extension, as relocated, is coterminous with the Providence mine on the northerly boundary line, designated as the line f-g, running south, 43 degrees west. ( 171 U. S. 1.)

That line is the only boundary between the two properties, and the only boundary of the Providence location which is crossed by the Contact ledge.

The first workings of the appellee involved no conflict with appellant. The shaft ran parallel with the Providence line, and none of the levels crossed that line until about three months before this suit was begun, when the 1,000-foot level was driven across it into the ground in dispute. Subsequently the eighth and ninth levels were driven across.

The work done by the Providence was carried on through a shaft sunk on the Providence or Granite ledge, from which shaft a crosscut was run back to the Contract vein on the 600-foot level, and another on the 1,250-foot level, and much of the ground now in controversy was thereby prospected and opened up by complainant and his co-owners. See 171 U. S. 1.

The claims of the respective parties will be readily understood by reference to 171 U. S. 1, which shows the relative position of all the mining properties belonging to both, with the lines claimed by them.

The portion of the Contact vein in dispute is that, upon the dip of the ledge lying between the line marked "Line claimed by Providence" and the line marked "Line claimed by Champion."

The apex of the Contact vein is represented by the dotted line x-x^1, and shows the vein as far as exposed in both the Champion and Providence ground. South of x, the course of the vein in the Providence ground is unknown.

The line f-g is the same line as that designated A-B by some of the witnesses.

Upon the trial, the circuit court held that there could be but one end line for each end of the Providence location, and that the lines g-h and a-p constituted such end lines; that

Page 171 U. S. 300

such lines constituted the end lines of not only the originally discovered Providence lode, but also of every other vein that might be discovered within the surface lines of the location. But, notwithstanding this holding, in entering the decree, the line f-g was also established as an end line of the Contact vein, but for its length only, and then that from g, the line g-h, and that line extended indefinitely eastwardly, constituted another end line for the same end of the lode, and constituted the line through which the plane determinative of all extralateral rights in the vein must be drawn.

From this decree the appellant here was allowed an appeal to the circuit court of appeals.

The latter court established the line g-h-h^1 as the sole end line of the Contact vein, and reversed the decree of the circuit court insofar as it fixed the line f-g as an end line.

As a result of this decree, the complainant was not only shut out of all extralateral rights in the Contact vein north of the line g-h-h^1, but also of that portion of the vein lying vertically beneath the surface lines of the Providence which extend north of that line, and which are marked upon the figures as constituting the parallelogram h-i-k-h^1, which was awarded to the Champion. See 171 U. S. 1, showing the end line fixed by the circuit court and that line as subsequently fixed by the court of appeals, with the latter line extended in its own direction both easterly and westerly.

From the judgment of the circuit court of appeals, the appellant has appealed to this Court.

There are nine assignments of error. The first eight attack so much of the decree as establishes the line g-h as an end line, for the purpose of determining the extralateral right, or fails to establish the line f-g, and that line produced indefinitely in the direction of g^1, as such end line. The last two assail so much of the decree as awards to appellee the right to pursue the vein on its downward course underneath the parallelogram h-i-k-h^1.

Page 171 U. S. 301

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