Law School Case Brief
Del Monte Mining & Milling Co. v. Last Chance Mining & Milling Co. - 171 U.S. 55, 18 S. Ct. 895 (1898)
U.S. Rev. Stat. § 2322 gives to the locators of all mining locations, so long as they comply with laws of the United States, and with state, territorial and local regulations not in conflict therewith, 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.
Appellee held a mining claim and patent to territory that was located upon a vein of silver and lead bearing ore; a portion of the vein was located under the surface of appellant's claim. In a dispute over the portion of the vein located on appellant's property, the appellate court certified five questions for presentation to the Court:
1. May and of the lines of a junior lode location be laid within, upon or across the surface of a valid senior location for the purpose of defining for or securing to such junior location under-ground or extra-lateral rights not in conflict with any rights of the senior location?
2. Does the patent of the Last Chance Lode mining claim, which first describes the rectangular claim by metes and bounds and then excepts and excludes them from the premises previously granted to the New York Lode mining claim, convey to the patentee anything more than he would take by a grant specifically describing only the two irregular tracts which constitute the granted surface of the Last Chance claim?
3. Is the easterly side of the New York Lode mining claim and "end line'"of the Last Chance Lode mining claim within the meaning of sections 2320 and 2322 of the Revised Statutes of the United States?
4. If the apex of a vein crosses one end line and one side line of a lode mining claim, as located thereon, can the locator of such vein follow it upon its dip beyond the vertical side line of his location?
5. On the facts presented by the record herein, does the appellee have the right to follow its vein downward beyond its west side line and under the surface of the premises of appellant?
May a junior location be laid across the surface of a valid senior location to define or secure the junior location underground?
The Court answered three of the questions, holding that a junior location may be laid across the surface of a valid senior location to define or secure the junior location underground. The Court stated that the location as made on the surface determined the extent a locator's rights below the surface and the end line. The Court ruled that the side of a third party's mining claim adjacent to the disputed land was not an end line for purposes of federal statutes. The Court further held that a locator was entitled to pursue a vein, the apex of which lied inside his surface lines, to any extent. The Court also ruled that a locator may follow a vein beyond a vertical side line, unless the side line constituted an end line. The Court did not answer a specific question regarding appellee's rights to proceed onto appellant's premises.
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