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

Annotate this Case

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

APPEAL FROM THE CIRCUIT COURT

OF APPEALS OF THE NINTH CIRCUIT

Syllabus

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 Fig. 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|

image:a

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 Fig. 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|

image:b

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 Fig. 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. (Fig. 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. SeeFig. 1.

The claims of the respective parties will be readily understood by reference to Fig. 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. SeeFig. 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

MR. JUSTICE McKENNA, after stating the facts in the foregoing language, delivered the opinion of the Court.

There are two questions presented by the assignment of errors:

(1) What are the extralateral rights of the appellant on the Contact vein?

(2) Is appellant entitled to that portion of the Contact vein within the Providence boundaries which lies north of the north end line fixed by the court, and which is described upon Fig. 1 as the parallelogram bounded by the lines marked h-i-k-h?

(1) The appellant contends that the patent of the Providence ledge was conclusive evidence of his title to thirty-one hundred feet in length of that vein. If true, this carried the northern end of the ledge thirty feet beyond the line fixed by either the circuit court or the circuit court of appeals. It was truly said at bar: "If it is not the end line of the Providence location, then certainly there is no reason for holding it to be the end line of the Contact vein."

The language of the patent is:

"It being the intent and meaning of these presents to convey unto the Providence Gold and Silver Mining Company, and to their successors and assigns, the said vein or lode in its entire width for the distance of thirty-one hundred (3,100) feet along the course thereof."

The patent was issued under the act of 1866, and it is necessary, therefore, to some extent, to consider that act. By it, the appellant urges, the principal thing patented was the lode, and that the northern limit of that, and hence of his rights on that, was thirty feet north of the line fixed by the circuit court of appeals, and hence it is further contended that, as the northern and southern surface lines (g-h and a-p) did not determine or limit his right to the lode under the act of 1866 -- in other words, did not become end lines -- they do not become end lines upon the Contact ledge (x'-x") acquired under the act of 1872, but that the surface line which crosses

Page 171 U. S. 302

the strike of that ledge must be held to be the end line, and the line which fixes the rights of the parties. This line is f-g,Fig. 1, and, if appellant is correct, determines the controversy in his favor.

The extent of the right passing under the act of 1866 has been decided by this Court.

In Mining Co. v. Tarbet,98 U. S. 463, known as the "Flagstaff Case," the superficial area of the Flagstaff mine was one hundred feet wide by twenty-six hundred feet long. It lay across the lode, not with it, and the company contended, notwithstanding that, it had a right to the lode for the length of the location. In other words, the contention was that it was the lode which was granted, and that the surface ground was a mere incident for the convenient working of the lode. The contention was presented and denied by the instructions which were given and refused by the lower court. That court instructed the jury that if they found Tarbet

"was in possession of the claim, describing it, holding the same in accordance with the mining laws and the customs of the miners of the mining district, and that the apex and course of the vein in dispute is within such surface, then, as against one subsequently entering, he is deemed to be possessed of the land within his boundaries to any depth, and also of the vein in the surface to any depth on its dip, though the vein in its dip downward passes the side line of the surface boundary and extends beneath other and adjoining lands, and a trespass upon such part of the vein on its dip, though beyond the side surface line, is unlawful to the same extent as a trespass on the vein inside of the surface boundary. This possession of the vein outside of the surface line, on its dip, is limited in two ways -- by the length of the course of the vein within the surface and by an extension of the end lines of the surface claim vertically, and in their own direction, so as to interest the vein on its dip, and the right of a possessor to recover for trespass on the vein is subject to only these restrictions."

Again:

"The defendant (plaintiff in error) has not shown any title or color of title to any part of the vein except so much of its length on the course as lies within the Flagstaff

Page 171 U. S. 303

surface, and the dip of the vein for that length, and it has shown no title or color of title to any of the surface of the South Star and Titus mining claim, except to so much of No. 3 as lies within the patented surface of the Flagstaff mining claim."

And the following instructions propounded by the owner of the Flagstaff:

"By the act of Congress of July 26, 1866, under which all these locations are claimed to have been made, it was the vein or lode of mineral that was located and claimed. The lode was the principal thing, and the surface area was a mere incident for the convenient working of the lode. The patent granted the lode, as such, irrespective of the surface area, which an applicant was not bound to claim. It was his convenience for working the lode that controlled his location of his surface area, and the patentee, under that act, takes a fee simple title to the lode to the full extent located and claimed under said act."

Commenting on the instructions, Mr. Justice Bradley, speaking for the Court, said:

"These instructions and refusals to instruct indicate the general position taken by the court below -- namely that a mining claim secures only so much of a lode or vein as it covers along the course of the apex of the vein on or near the surface, no matter how far the location may extend in another direction."

And after stating that the act of 1872 was more explicit than that of 1866, but the intent of both undoubtedly the same as it respects lines and side lines and the right to follow the dip outside of the latter, he proceeded as follows:

"We think that the intent of both statutes is that mining locations on lodes or veins shall be made thereon lengthwise, in the general direction of such veins or lodes on the surface of the earth where they are discoverable, and that the end lines are to cross the lode, and extend perpendicularly downwards, and to be continued in their own direction either way horizontally, and that the right to follow the dip outside of the said lines is based on the hypothesis that the direction of

Page 171 U. S. 304

these lines corresponds substantially with the course of the lode or vein at its apex on or near the surface. It was not the intent of the law to allow a person to make his location crosswise of a vein, so that the side lines shall cross it, and thereby give him the right to follow the strike of the vein outside of his said lines. That would subvert the whole system sought to be established by the law. If he does locate his claim in that way, his rights must be subordinated to the rights of those who have properly located on the lode. Their right to follow the dip outside of their said lines cannot be interfered with by him. His right to the lode only extends to so much of the lode as his claim covers. If he has located crosswise of the lode, and his claim is only one hundred feet wide, that one hundred feet is all he has a right to. This we consider to be the law as to locations on lodes or veins."

"The location of the plaintiff in error is thus laid across the Titus lode (that is to say, across the course of its apex at or near the surface), and the side lines of the location are really the end lines of the claim, considering the direction or course of the lode at the surface."

"As the law stands, we think the right to follow the dip of the vein is bounded by the end lines of the claim, properly so called, which lines are those which are crosswise of the general course of the vein on the surface. The Spanish mining law confined the owner of a mine to perpendicular lines on every side, but gave him greater or less width according to the dip of the vein. See Rockwell, pp. 56-58, and pp. 274-275. But our laws have attempted to establish a rule by which each claim shall be so many feet of the vein, lengthwise of its course, to any depth below the surface, although laterally its inclination shall carry it ever so far from a perpendicular. This rule the court below strove to carry out, and all its rulings seem to have been in accordance with it."

This law was followed and applied in Argentine Mining Co. v. Terrible Mining Co.,122 U. S. 478, and in Iron-Silver Mining Co. v. Elgin Mining Co.,118 U. S. 196; King v. Amy & Silversmith Min. Co.,152 U. S. 222. The locations passed upon in these cases were made under the act of 1872,

Page 171 U. S. 305

but we have seen that the intent of that act and the act of 1866, "as it respects end lines and side lines," was the same.

But appellant urges that "those cases are not in point here." We think that they are. The patent in the Flagstaff case appears to have been the same as here, and besides, whatever the patent here, it must be confined to the rights given by the statute which authorized it.

In the Flagstaff case, the lode was claimed, and hence the right to follow it beyond the surface boundaries of the location was claimed. Here, the lode is claimed, and the right to follow it outside of the surface boundaries -- that is, beyond the line f-g to the point x^1. In that case, the right contended for was denied on the principle applicable to end and side lines. In this case, the right contended for must be denied by the application of the same principle.

But, appellant asks, admitting for the argument's sake that it (the line g-h) does constitute an end line of the location within the meaning of the law of May 10, 1872, does it constitute the end line of the Contact vein? And in answering the question, he says:

"The end line of a lode is the boundary line which crosses it, regardless of whether it was originally intended as an end line or side line. Four times has this principle been sustained by this Court."

He then cites the cases we have cited, and claims that they "are, of course, conclusive of this controversy if they are in point."

Under the law of 1866, a patent could be issued for only one vein. 14 Stat. 251. The act of 1872 gave to all locations theretofore made, as well as to those thereafter made, all veins, lodes, and ledges, the top or apex of which lie inside of the surface lines. Section 3 of the act, which is also section 2322 of the Revised Statutes, is as follows:

"The locators of all mining locations heretofore made or which shall hereafter be made on any mineral vein, lode or ledge situated on the public domain, their heirs and assigns, where no adverse claim exists on the tenth day of May, eighteen hundred and seventy-two, so long as they comply with the laws of the United States and with state territorial

Page 171 U. S. 306

and local regulations not in conflict with the laws of the United States governing their possessory title, shall have the exclusive right of possession and enjoyment of all the surface included within the lines of their locations, and of all veins, lodes and ledges throughout their entire depth, the top or apex of which lies inside of such surface lines extended downward vertically, although such veins, lodes, or ledges may so far depart from a perpendicular in their course downward as to extend outside the vertical side lines of such surface locations. But their right of possession to such outside parts of such veins or ledges shall be confined to such portions thereof as lie between vertical planes drawn downward, as above described, through the end lines of their locations, so continued in their own direction that such planes will intersect such exterior parts of such veins or ledges. And nothing in this section shall authorize the locator or possessor of a vein or lode which extends in its downward course beyond the vertical lines of his claim to enter upon the surface of a claim owned or possessed by another."

Act May 10, 1872, c. 152, § 3, sec. 2323, Rev.Stat.

Appellant's right upon the Contact vein is given by this statute. What limits this right extralaterally? The statute says vertical planes drawn downward through the end lines of the location. What end lines? Those of, and as determined by, the original location and lode, the circuit court of appeals decided. Those determined by the direction of the newly discovered lodes, regardless of whether they were originally intended as end lines or side lines, the appellant, as we have seen, contends. The court of appeals was right. Against the contention of appellant the letter and spirit of the statute oppose, and against it the decisions of this Court also oppose.

The language of the statute is that the "outside parts" of the veins or ledges "shall be confined to such portions thereof as lie between vertical planes drawn downwards . . . through the end lines of their locations. . . ." And Mr. Justice Field, speaking for the Court, said in Iron Silver Mining Co. v. Elgin Mining Co.,118 U. S. 196, 118 U. S. 198:

"The provision of the statute that the locator is entitled,

Page 171 U. S. 307

throughout their entire depth, to all the veins, lodes, or ledges, the top or apex of which lies inside of the surface lines of his location, tends strongly to show that the end lines marked on the ground must control. It often happens that the top or apex of more than one vein lies within such surface lines, and the veins may have different courses and dips; yet his right to follow them outside of the side lines of the location must be bounded by planes drawn vertically through the same end lines. The planes of the end lines cannot be drawn at a right angle to the courses of all the veins if they are not identical."

The Court, however, did not mean that the end lines, called such by the locator, were the true end lies, but those which "are crosswise of the general course of the vein on the surface."

This Court, in Del Monte Mining & Milling Co. v. Last Chance Mining Co., decided at the present term, ante at 171 U. S. 55, reviewed the cases we have cited, and, speaking for the Court, MR. JUSTICE BREWER said:

"Our conclusion may be summed up in these propositions: 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 called end lines are in fact side lines, and this upon the proposition that it was the intent of Congress to give

Page 171 U. S. 308

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. Our laws have attempted to establish a rule by which each claim shall be so many feet of the vein, lengthwise of its course, to any depth below the surface, although laterally its inclination shall carry it ever so far from a perpendicular."

Mining Co. v. Tarbet,98 U. S. 463, 98 U. S. 468.

These propositions we affirm 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.

The appellant contends that, by agreement, by acquiescence, and by estoppel, the line f-g has become the end line between the two claims.

This contention is attempted to be supported by (a) a relocation of the New Years Extension claim, by which, it is asserted, it recognized and designated the line f-g as the northerly end line of the Providence claim; (b) the testimony of the superintendent as to what took place between him and the directors before sinking the Champion shaft, and afterwards between him and a co-tenant of complainant (appellant).

(a) The relocation does not in terms recognize the line f-g as the northern end line of the Providence. Its recitals are:

"And whereas part of this claim, as originally described and as hereby relocated, conflicts with the rights granted by the letters patent of said Providence mine, said lot No. 40, now therefore so much of this claim, both for lode and surface ground, as originally designated, conflicting, 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 Providence mine, which runs north 43 degrees, 10 minutes east, across the southeastern corner of this claim."

It will be observed by reference to Fig. 1 that the northern

Page 171 U. S. 309

boundary of the Providence is not one line, but two lines, and it is the one which runs north, 43

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