449 U.S. 932 (1980)

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U.S. Supreme Court

ANDRUS v. BAKER , 449 U.S. 932 (1980)

449 U.S. 932

Cecil D. ANDRUS, Secretary of the Interior
Melton E. BAKER
No. 79-1964

Supreme Court of the United States

October 20, 1980

On petition for writ of certiorari to the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.

The petition for writ of certiorari is denied.

Justice BLACKMUN, with whom Justice MARSHALL and Justice POWELL join, dissenting.

The issue in this case is whether the Secretary of the Interior has applied an improper standard for determining that a mineral discovery is " valuable" under 30 U.S.C. 22.1 Because I believe that issue to be an important one deserving review here, and because the decision and judgment of the Court of Appeals may well thwart a proper attempt on the part of the Secretary to reject excessive mining claims while preserving the public's right to enjoy its lands, I dissent from the denial of certiorari.

In 1952, respondent began to mine cinders from a cone located within a volcanic field on public land near Flagstaff, Arizona. In 1965, he applied to the Bureau of Land Management of the Department of the Interior for a patent covering five 20-acre placer mining claims for cinders on land on which he claimed to have discovered "valuable mineral deposits." Respondent's claims covered an estimated 15 million tons of cinders. At the request of the Forest Service of the Depart-

Page 449 U.S. 932 , 933

ment of Agriculture, the Bureau issued an administrative contest complaint seeking cancellation of those claims. [Footnote 2] Over the period from 1953 to 1976, respondent extracted and marketed less than one million tons; of this amount, a substantial portion was sold for purposes not cognizable under the mining laws. The Secretary considered these factors, along with the marginal profitability of the local cinders market, in concluding that respondent's total reserves far exceeded reasonable market demand for the foreseeable future. While validating two of respondent's claims, the Interior Board of Land Appeals nullified two others, reasoning that development of all four claims would be imprudent. 23 I.B.L.A. 319 (1976 ). Respondents sought judicial review in the United States District Court for the District of Arizona. On cross-motions for summary judgment, that court affirmed the agency's decision. The Court of Appeals, however, vacated and remanded, holding that the Secretary had exceeded his statutory powers in relying on an "excess reserves" analysis to limit the patentability of a mineral claim. 613 F.2d 224 (CA9 1980).

Two complementary methods for determining whether a mineral deposit is of value have been developed over time. For many years, the "prudent person" test called for validation of mineral claims whenever extraction of the discovered deposits offered a "reasonable prospect of success" to " a person of ordinary prudence." Castle v. Womble, 19 L.D. 455, 457 (1894 ). This Court approved that test on numerous occasions, most recently in Andrus v. Charlestone Stone Products Co., 436 U.S. 604 (1978). As a refinement on what at times perhaps appeared to be an imprecise standard, the Secretary came to require an applicant to show that his claimed deposit could be extracted and marketed at a profit. In United States v. Coleman, 390 U.S. 599, 603, 1330, 20 L. Ed.2d 170 (1968), this Court reversed a Court of Appeals' conclusion to the effect that the [449 U.S. 932 , 934]

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