Iron Silver Mining Co. v. Elgin Mining Co.
118 U.S. 196 (1886)

Annotate this Case

U.S. Supreme Court

Iron Silver Mining Co. v. Elgin Mining Co., 118 U.S. 196 (1886)

Iron Silver Mining Company v. Elgin Mining and Smelting Company

Argued March 26, 29, 1886

Decided April 26, 1886

118 U.S. 196

Syllabus

Under §§ 2320, 2322, and 2324 of the Revised Statutes, the surface side lines of a mining location on a mineral vein, lode, or ledge, extended downward vertically, determine the extent of the claim except when, in its descent, the vein passes outside of such surface side lines, and then the outside portions of the vein must lie between vertical planes drawn downward through the end lines of the surface location and continued in their own direction, and the parallelism of such end lines is essential to the existence of any right in the locator to follow the vein outside of vertical planes drawn through the side lines.

This is an action to recover possession of certain mining ground in Lake County, Colorado. The plaintiffs in the court below, the defendants in error here, assert title to the premises under a patent of the United States for what is known as the "Gilt Edge Claim," of which they are a part. In the original complaint, they asserted title by conveyance from the

Page 118 U. S. 197

original locators. A patent to them having been subsequently granted, they filed an amended complaint setting up its issue and that it conveys to them a fee simple title.

The complaint avers that the defendant, the Iron Silver Mining Company, on the 25th of June, 1882, by means of drifts, inclines, and tunnels, entered without right upon a portion of the Gilt Edge claim, which it has since wrongfully withheld from the plaintiffs, to their damage of $50,000, and that it has excavated, carried away, and converted to its own use since such entry gold, silver, and lead ores belonging to them of the value of $50,000. They therefore pray judgment for the premises and damages for their wrongful detention, and for the ores taken.

The defendant in its answer denies the several allegations of the complaint and sets up as an affirmative defense that under a patent of the United States bearing date May 24, 1877, it is the owner in fee and entitled to the possession of a surface lode mining claim also situated in Lake County, Colorado, called the "Stone Claim," containing 9.18 acres of land, more or less, and of a vein, lode, or ledge therein, extending the length of the claim from north to south 1,500 feet, throughout its entire depth, although it enters adjoining lands; that the vein, lode, or ledge contains iron, lead, and silver in large quantities; that the top, apex, and outcrop of it are found in the surface claim throughout its entire extent; that its true strike is north and south, with a dip to the east at an angle of fifteen degrees below the plane of the horizon; that the vein, lode, or ledge on its dip, within vertical planes drawn downward, with its end lines continued in their own direction -- that is, in the direction of the dip -- passes through and beyond the east vertical side line of the surface claim and location into and under the Gilt Edge surface claim, and the defendant admits that underneath the surface of the Gilt Edge claim it has followed and mined upon the Stone vein, lode, or ledge, and avers that, by reason of the facts above set forth, it had the right so to do, and denies that it has otherwise interfered with the Gilt Edge claim or any part of it.

Page 118 U. S. 198

The plaintiffs in their reply deny the material allegations of the answer. By stipulation, the case was tried by the court without the intervention of a jury. On the trial, the plaintiffs produced in evidence a patent of the United States to them for the Gilt Edge claim, in the usual form of patent for lode mining claims, and the defendant admitted that they were invested with the title to the property which the patent conveyed; that it had entered underneath the surface of that claim at a point east of the Stone surface claim, and was engaged in mining and in carrying away lead and silver ores when the action was commenced.

It was agreed that plat A (see page 118 U. S. 199) correctly represents the shape and relative positions of the Gilt Edge mining claim and of the Stone mining claim, and that the lines on the figures of the Stone claim, from No. 5 to 6 and from 1 to 14, are the two end lines of the surface claim, so called by the locator thereof, and in the plat accompanying the application for the patent. It was also agreed that plat B (see page 118 U. S. 200) is a correct copy of the plat of the Gilt Edge claim contained in the patent thereof, which also shows its relative position to the Stone claim, the latter being marked Sur. No. 217.

And thereupon the plaintiffs rested. The defendant then introduced in evidence a patent for the Stone claim bearing date May 24, 1877, issued to one Alvinus B. Wood, and it was admitted that, by divers mesne conveyances, the defendant holds title in fee to the premises described in it. The patent gives a full and minute description by metes and bounds of the surface claim, containing 9.18 acres of land, more or less, and embracing 1,500 linear feet of the Stone lode along the course thereof. Its granting clause is as follows:

"Now know ye that the United States of America, in consideration of the premises, and in conformity with the said Revised Statutes of the United States, have given and granted, and by these presents do give and grant unto the said Alvinus B. Wood, and to his heirs and assigns, the said mining premises hereinbefore described as lot No. 217, embracing a portion "

Page 118 U. S. 199

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Page 118 U. S. 200

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"of the unsurveyed public domain, with the exclusive right of possession and enjoyment of all the land included within the exterior lines of said survey not herein expressly excepted from these presents, and of fifteen hundred (1,500) linear feet of the said Stone vein, lode, ledge, or deposit, for the length hereinbefore described, throughout its entire depth, although it may enter the land adjoining, and also of all other veins, lodes, ledges, or deposits, throughout their entire depth, the tops or apexes

Page 118 U. S. 201

of which lie inside the exterior lines of said survey at the surface extended downward vertically, although such veins, lodes, ledges, or deposits in their downward course may so far depart from a perpendicular as to extend outside the vertical side lines of said survey, provided that the right of possession hereby granted to such outside parts of said veins, lodes, ledges, or deposits shall be confined to such portions thereof as lie between vertical planes drawn downward through the end lines of said survey at the surface, so continued in their own direction that such vertical planes will intersect such exterior parts of said veins, lodes, ledges, or deposits, and provided further that nothing in this conveyance shall authorize the grantee herein, his heirs or assigns, to enter upon the surface of a mining claim owned or possessed by another, to have and to hold said mining premises, together with all the rights, privileges, immunities, and appurtenances, of whatsoever nature, thereunto belonging unto the said Alvinus B. Wood, and to his heirs and assigns forever, subject, nevertheless, to the following conditions and stipulations:"

"First. That the grant hereby made is restricted to the land hereinbefore described as lot No. 217, with fifteen hundred (1,500) linear feet of the Stone vein, lode, ledge, or deposit for the length aforesaid, throughout its entire depth as aforesaid, together with all other veins, lodes, ledges, or deposits, throughout their entire depths as aforesaid, the tops or apexes of which lie inside the exterior lines of said survey."

"Second. That the premises hereby conveyed, with the exception of the surface, may be entered by the proprietor of any other vein, lode, ledge, or deposit the top or apex of which lies outside the exterior limits of said survey, should the same, in its downward course, be found to penetrate, intersect, extend into, or underlie the premises hereby granted, for the purpose of extracting and removing the ore from such other vein, lode, ledge, or deposit."

"Third. That the premises hereby conveyed shall be held subject to any vested and accrued water

Page 118 U. S. 202

rights for mining, agricultural, manufacturing, or other purposes, and rights to ditches and reservoirs used in connection with such water rights, as may be recognized and acknowledged by the local laws, customs, and decisions of courts."

"Fourth. That in the absence of necessary legislation by Congress, the Legislature of Colorado may provide rules for working the mining claim or premises hereby granted involving easements, drainage, and other necessary means to its complete development."

The defendant then offered to prove:

"(1) That the Stone vein, lode, or ledge mentioned in the patent is a vein, lode, or ledge of rock in place bearing iron, lead, and silver in large quantities, and is valuable on account thereof."

"(2) That the top, apex, and outcrop of the vein, lode, or ledge exist and are found in the Stone surface claim through its entire extent from north to south between walls of rock in place, a limestone footwall, and a porphyry hanging wall."

"(3) That the true strike of the vein, lode, or ledge is north and south, and has a dip to the east at an angle of 15

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