CLIPPER MINING CO. V. ELI MINING CO., 194 U. S. 220 (1904)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Clipper Mining Co. v. Eli Mining Co., 194 U.S. 220 (1904)

Clipper Mining Company v. Eli Mining and Land Company

No. 76

Argued November 13, 1903

Decided May 2, 1904

194 U.S. 220


This Court has no jurisdiction in an action at law to review the conclusions of the highest court of a state upon questions of fact.

The land department has the power to set aside a mining location and restore the ground to the public domain, but a mere rejection of an application for a patent does not have that effect. A second or amended application may be made, and further testimony offered to show the applicant's right to a patent.

Although a placer location is not a location of lodes and veins beneath the surface, but simply a claim of a tract of ground for the sake of loose deposits upon or near the surface, and the patent to a placer claim does not convey the title to a known vein or lode within its area unless specifically applied and paid for, the patentee takes title to any lode or vein not known to exist at the time of the patent and subsequently discovered. The owner of a valid mining location, whether lode or placer, has the right to the exclusive possession and enjoyment of all the surface included within the lines of the location.

One going upon a valid placer location to prospect for unknown lodes and veins against the will of the placer owner is a trespasser, and cannot

Page 194 U. S. 221

initiate a right maintainable in an action at law to the lode and vein claims within the placer limits which he may discover during such trespass.

The owner of a placer location may maintain an adverse action against an applicant for a patent of a lode claim when the latter's application includes part of the placer grounds.

Quaere, and not decided, what the powers of a court of equity may be as to conflicting placer and lode locations.

On December 12, 1877, A.D. Searl and seven associates made a location of placer mining ground near the new mining camp of Leadville. The claim embraced at that time 157.02 acres of land. The original locators shortly conveyed all their interest to A.D. Searl, who applied for a patent on July 5, 1878. The application was met at the Land Office with a multitude of adverse claims. Settlements were made with some of the contestants, and on November 10, 1882, an amended application for patent was filed, including only 101 916/1000 acres. This application was rejected by the Commissioner of the General Land Office on March 6, 1886, and his decision was affirmed by the Secretary of the Interior on November 13, 1890. On November 25, 1890, four lode claims, known as the Clipper, Castle, Congress, and Capital, were located by parties other than the owners of the placer claim within the exterior boundaries of that claim. These four lode claims became, by mesne conveyances, the property of the Clipper Mining Company. It applied for a patent, and on November 23, 1893, the defendants in error, as the owners of the Searl placer location, filed an adverse claim and commenced this action in the District Court of Lake County in support of that claim. Judgment was rendered in favor of the plaintiffs, which was affirmed by the supreme court of the state, 29 Colo. 377, and thereafter this writ of error was sued out.

Page 194 U. S. 222

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