Stewart Mining Co. v. Ontario Mining Co.
237 U.S. 350 (1915)

Annotate this Case

U.S. Supreme Court

Stewart Mining Co. v. Ontario Mining Co., 237 U.S. 350 (1915)

Stewart Mining Company v. Ontario Mining Company

No. 205

Argued March 17, 18, 1915

Decided April 26, 1915

237 U.S. 350

ERROR TO THE SUPREME COURT

OF THE STATE OF IDAHO

Syllabus

The locator of a mining claim has the right under § 2322, Rev.Stat., to the surface included within the lines of his claim, and if a vein has its top or apex within the claim, he may follow such vein downward although it may depart from a perpendicular in its downward course, outside of the vertical side lines of the location -- that is, into adjoining grounds within the limited lines expressed in the statute.

The strike and the dip of a vein must not be confounded, nor the rights dependent upon them confused.

Where the state court does more than merely decide whether the apex of a vein is or is not within the location, but also construes the statute under which plaintiff in error asserts its rights, there is a question of law as well as of fact, and this Court has jurisdiction under § 237, Judicial Code.

Extralateral rights to a vein under § 2322, Rev.Stat., depend upon the position of its top or apex.

Accepting the proper definition of apex of a vein as all that portion of a terminal edge of a vein from which the vein has extension downward in the direction of the dip, it does not appear that the apex of the vein invoked in this action was within plaintiff's claim, and therefore no extralateral rights exist under § 2322, Rev.Stat.

Quaere whether, under § 2322 Rev.Stat., a vein can be pursued in the direction of its strike at an angle of less than 45 degrees to the course thereof.

23 Idaho 724 affirmed.

Page 237 U. S. 351

The facts, which involve the construction of Rev.Stat., § 2322, and the right of the locator of a mining claim to follow the vein downward, are stated in the opinion.

MR. JUSTICE McKENNA delivered the opinion of the Court.

Contest between the mining companies (they were respectively plaintiff and defendants in the trial court, and we shall so designate them) as to certain ore bodies lying beneath the surface of the mining claim of defendants, called the Ontario. Plaintiff asserts ownership to the ore bodies by reason of being owner in fee and in possession of a quartz lode mining claim named the Senator Stewart Fraction Lodge Claim. It is alleged that within such claim there

"is a certain vein or lode bearing silver, lead, and other valuable minerals, of which said vein or lode and the ore and mineral therein contained this plaintiff is the owner in possession and entitled to the possession. That the top or apex of said vein or lode crosses the easterly end line of said claim at approximately the center thereof between corners Nos. 1 and 2, and extends within the boundaries of said claim in a westerly direction, following the general course of said claim, for a distance of seven hundred five (705) feet, more or less. That said vein or lode has a downward course, and descends into the earth southerly and beyond the south boundary and side line of said claim into and beneath the surface of the Ontario quartz lode mining claim, designated as survey No. 755. "

Page 237 U. S. 352

Plaintiff prayed for an accounting and for an injunction against the further mining or extracting of the ore.

Defendants' answer set up opposing contentions and denied the rights alleged by plaintiff. In a cross-complaint, defendants asserted title and prayed that it be quieted against the claim of plaintiffs. The judgment of the trial court responded to this prayer. The judgment was affirmed by the supreme court of the state, 23 Idaho 724. This writ of error was then granted.

The case is not embarrassed by any dispute of facts of the title to the respective claims, or of their boundaries, or of the mining of the ore by defendants. The controversy turns entirely upon the construction of § 2322, Rev.Stat. of the United States. It provides that locators of mining locations

"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."

It will be observed therefore to summarize the rights conferred by the section, that the locator of a mining claim

Page 237 U. S. 353

has the right to the surface included within the lines of his claim, and if a vein has its top or apex within the claim, he may follow such vein downward, though it may depart from a perpendicular in its downward course outside "of the vertical side lines" of the location -- that is, into adjoining grounds. The length of the side lines and the claim they bound are limited by the end lines, or, as it is expressed in the statute, by vertical planes drawn downward through the end lines. Iron Silver Mining Co. v. Cheesman,116 U. S. 529; Iron Silver Mining Co. v. Elgin Mining & Smelting Co.,118 U. S. 196.

The statute would seem to call for no effort of construction, and the distinction which obtains in the parlance of miners and in the cases between the strike or course and the dip of a vein is compelled by the statute, and marks accurately the linear and extralateral rights of a location. This certainly, as far as any language can do it, expresses the distinction which must be observed, however various may be the natural conditions. In other words, the strike and the dip of the vein must not be confounded, nor the rights dependent upon them confused.

What, then, do they determine in the present case? The plaintiff asserts, as we have seen, that the vein has its top or apex within one of its claims (the Senator Stewart Fraction Lode), and asserts further that the vein extends downward beyond the side lines, within the limits of the end lines extended vertically, to and beneath the claim of defendants, and includes the ore bodies mined by the latter.

These are the facts as found by the trial court:

"That no part of the apex of the said ore bodies lies within the lines of the Senator Stewart Fraction lode mining claim."

"That the plaintiff is the owner, in the possession and entitled to the possession of the Senator Stewart Fraction lode mining claim described in the complaint, with the exception of that part thereof in conflict with the Quaker

Page 237 U. S. 354

lode mining claim, which conflict is not material to any issue involved in this case."

"That within said Senator Stewart Fraction lode mining claim there is a vein or a lode of mineral-bearing rock in place which, on its onward course, crosses the south side line of said Senator Stewart Fraction lode mining claim, and has a course about north 30

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