Lawson v. United States Mining Co.,
207 U.S. 1 (1907)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Lawson v. United States Mining Co., 207 U.S. 1 (1907)

Lawson v. United States Mining Company

No. 2

Argued October 11, 12, 1906

Decided October 21, 1907

207 U.S. 1


One in possession of the surface of a mining claim under a patent from the United States is presumably in possession of all beneath the surface and, under § 3511, Rev.Stat., Utah, may maintain an action in equity to quiet title to a vein beneath the surface and to enjoin the removal of ore therefrom. Holland v. Challen, 110 U. S. 15, followed; Boston &c. Mining Co. v. Montana Ore Co., 188 U. S. 632, distinguished.

The ownership of the apex of a vein must be established before any extralateral title to the vein can be recognized.

Discovery is the all-important fact upon which title to mines depends, and where there is a single broad vein whose apex or outcroppings extend into two adjoining mining claims the discoverer has an extralateral right to the entire vein on its dip.

It is the duty of this Court to accept the findings of the circuit court of appeals unless clearly and manifestly wrong.

Acceptance by the government of location proceedings had before the statute of 1866, and issue of a patent thereon, is evidence that such proceedings were in accordance with the rules and customs of the local mining district.

Priority of right to a single broad vein in the discoverer is not determined by the dates of the entries or patents of the respective claims, and priority of discovery may be shown by testimony other than the entries and patents.

In the absence from the record of an adverse suit, there is no presumption that anything was considered or determined except the question of the right to the surface.

134 F. 769 affirmed.

Page 207 U. S. 2

This suit was commenced in the Circuit Court of the United States for the District of Utah by the United States Mining Company, claiming to be the owner of certain mining property and praying that its title thereto be quieted and the defendant restrained from taking any ore therefrom. Jurisdiction was founded on diverse citizenship. In an amended complaint filed June 2, 1902, it was alleged that the plaintiff is the owner and in possession of four mining claims known as the Jordan Extension, the Northern Light, the Grizzly, and the Fairview Lode mining claims, the boundaries of each being given; that these mining claims are adjacent to each other and to certain other mining claims, all owned and worked by the plaintiff as one property for mining purposes; that beneath the surface of the claims above mentioned is a vein or lode of great value; that the defendants wrongfully claim to own said vein or lode and the ores and minerals therein contained; that they have, by means of secret underground works, obtained access thereto and have mined, extracted, and removed large quantities of valuable ores therefrom; that they threaten to continue such wrongful and unlawful invasion of the premises, and to continue to mine, extract, and remove ores and minerals; that the defendants are in possession of a mining claim adjacent to the four mining claims of plaintiff, known as the Kempton mining claim, United States Lot 255, which was located in the year 1871, and, on information and belief, that the defendants pretend that the mineral deposits and ores under and beneath the surface of the four mining claims above mentioned are in and part of a mineral vein and lode belonging to and having its apex in said Kempton Mining Claim and on the dip of said alleged vein, which pretense the plaintiff charges to be contrary to the truth. The plaintiff further alleges that it is the owner and in possession of two certain mining claims, one named the Jordan Silver Mining Company's mine, but usually known as the "Old Jordan," located December 17, 1863; the other the Mountain Gem Lodge and Mining Claim located August 20, 1864, the boundaries of each of which are given;

Page 207 U. S. 3

that in these two claims there is a lode, bearing silver and other metals, whose apex is within the surface boundaries; that the dip of said lodes is toward the Kempton claim occupied by the defendants, and that, if there be any mineral vein or lode in the Kempton claim, it is not one that has its apex within the limits of that claim, but is a part of the lodes apexing within the "Old Jordan" and Mountain Gem claims. The relief prayed for was a decree quieting plaintiff's title and restraining the defendants from mining and removing any ores or minerals. To this amended complaint the defendants filed a demurrer, stating, as one of the grounds thereof that the plaintiff had an adequate remedy at law. This demurrer was overruled, and thereupon the defendants filed an answer and subsequently an amended answer setting forth their title to the Kempton Mining Claim and also to a claim known as the Ashland mining claim, and alleging that there are lodes whose apices are within these claims; that, on their dip, they enter beneath the surface of the plaintiff's claims, and that it is upon them that defendants have been mining; that the Kempton claim was patented to their grantors and predecessors in interest on February 23, 1875. They further deny that the "Old Jordan" claim was located on December 17, 1863, or patented July 14, 1877; deny that the Mountain Gem claim was located on August 20, 1864, or that a patent had been issued on said alleged location. They further aver that, if there be any lode or vein in either the "Old Jordan" or the Mountain Gem claims, that such lode or vein is entirely distinct from those which have their apices in the Kempton and Ashland claims. On the hearing, the court denied the application of the defendants to set the case for trial as a law case before a jury. At the same time, it entered a decree dismissing the plaintiff's bill. From this decree the plaintiff appealed to the circuit court of appeals (134 F. 769), which reversed the decree of dismissal and remanded the case with instructions to enter a decree for the plaintiff in conformity with the prayer of the bill. Thereupon,

Page 207 U. S. 4

on application of the defendants, the case was brought to this Court on certiorari.

Page 207 U. S. 8

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