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196 U.S. 119
BUTTE CITY WATER COMPANY, Plff. in Err.,
Argued and submitted December 16, 1904.
Decided January 3, 1905.
[196 U.S. 119, 120] Messrs. L. Orvis Evans, W. W. Dixon, and Forbis & Evans for plaintiff in error.
[196 U.S. 119, 121] Messrs. Robert B. Smith and J. E. Healy for defendant in error.
Mr. Justic e Brewer delivered the opinion of the court:
This was an action of ejectment brought in the district court of Silver Bow county, Montana. The dispute was between two locations of the same mining ground. The defendant's location was adjudged invalid by the trial court, and its decision was affirmed by the supreme court of the state, on the ground of a failure to comply with certain Montana statutes. 28 Mont. 222, 72 Pac. 617. These statutes contained regulations concerning the location of mining claims in addition to those prescribed by congressional legislation, and the question is as to the validity of those additional requirements.
Section 2319, Rev. Stat. (U. S. Comp. Stat. 1901, p. 1424), provides that 'all valuable mineral deposits in lands belonging to the United States, both surveyed and unsurveyed, are hereby declared to be free and open to exploration and purchase, and the lands in which they are found to occupation and purchase, by citizens of the United States and those who have declared their intention to become such, under regulations prescribed by law, and according to the local customs or rules of miners in the several mining districts, so far as the same are applicable, and not inconsistent with the laws of the United States.'
Section 2322 (U. S. Comp. Stat. 1901, p. 1425) gives to the locators the exclusive right of possession and enjoyment of all the surface included within the lines of their locations 'so long as they comply with the laws of the United States, and with state, territorial, and local regulations not in conflict with the laws of the United States governing their possessory title.'
Section 2324 contains this grant of authority:
Section 2332 (U. S. Comp. Stat. 1901, p. 1433) makes the statute of limitations for mining claims of a state applicable for certain purposes to mining claims under the government.
Section 2338 (U. S. Comp. Stat. 1901, p. 1436) reads as follows:
Section 2339 (U. S. Comp. Stat. 1901, p. 1437) contains this clause:
In 1893 Congress passed an act (28 Stat. at L. 6, chap. 12) relieving from the necessity of the annual labor for that year, 'so that no mining claim which has been regularly located and recorded as required by the local laws and mining regulations shall be subject to forfeiture for nonperformance of the annual assessment for the year 1893,' and a similar statute was enacted in 1894 in respect to the annual labor for that year. 28 Stat. at L. 114, chap. 142.
While, in the above sections, there is not that direct grant of authority to the state to legislate respecting locations as there is to miners to make regulations, yet there is a clear recognition of such legislation. All these statutory provisions, except the last two sections referred to, were embodied in the legislation of 1872, and have been in force ever since. [196 U.S. 119, 124] Acting upon the belief that they were fully authorized, nearly all, if not all, the states in the mining regions have passed statutes prescribing additional regulations in respect to the location of mining claims, some having been in force for more than a score of years.
This court has, in many cases, recognized the validity of such state legislation. In Belk v. Meagher, 104 U.S. 279, 284 , 26 S. L. ed. 735, 737, Chief Justice Waite, speaking for the court, declared that 'a location is not made by taking possession alone, but by working on the ground, recording, and doing whatever else is required for that purpose by the acts of Congress and the local laws and regulations.'
In Erhardt v. Boaro, 113 U.S. 527 , 28 L. ed. 1113, 5 Sup. Ct. Rep. 560, it appeared that there were no mining regulations prescribed by the miners of the district, and it was said by Mr. Justice Field (p. 536, L. ed. p. 1116, Sup. Ct. Rep. p. 564):
Kendall v. San Juan Silver Min. Co. 144 U.S. 658 , 36 L. ed. 583, 12 Sup. Ct. Rep. 779, turned on the question of compliance by the locator with a regulation prescribed by the statutes of Colorado concerning the record of locations, and the decision was that a failure to comply rendered the attempted location invalid. In Shoshone Min. Co. v. Rutter, 177 U.S. 505 , 44 L. ed. 864, 20 Sup. Ct. Rep. 726, it was held that a suit brought in support of an adverse claim was not one of which a Federal court necessarily had jurisdiction, because, as said (p. 508, L. ed. p. 865, Sup. Ct. Rep. p. 727):
Other cases containing similar recognition might also be cited.
The validity of such state legislation has been affirmed by the supreme courts of several states. See, in addition to the present case, Wolfley v. Lebanon Min. Co. 4 Colo. 112; O'Donnell v. Glenn, 8 Mont. 248, 19 Pac. 302; Metcalf v. Prescott, 10 Mont. 283, 293, 25 Pac. 1037; Purdum v. Laddin, 23 Mont. 387, 59 Pac. 153; Sisson v. Sommers, 24 Nev. 379, 77 Am. St. Rep. 815, 55 Pac. 829; Copper Globe Min. Co. v. Allman, 23 Utah, 410, 64 Pac. 1019; Northmore v. Simmons, 38 C. C. A. 211, 97 Fed. 386.
In 1 Lindley on Mines, 2d ed. 249, the author says:
What is the ground upon which the validity of these supplementary regulations prescribed by a state is challenged? It is insisted that the disposal of the public lands is an act of legislative power, and that it is not within the competency of a legislature to delegate to another body the exercise of its power; that Congress alone has the right to dispose of the public lands, and cannot transfer its authority to any state legislature or other body. The authority of Congress over the [196 U.S. 119, 126] public lands is granted by 3, article 4, of the Constitution, which provides that 'the Congress shall have power to dispose of and make all needful rules and regulations respecting the territory or other property belonging to the United States.' In other words, Congress is the body to which is given the power to determine the conditions upon which the public lands shall be disposed of. The nation is an owner, and has made Congress the principal agent to dispose of its property. Is it inconceivable that Congress, having regard to the interests of this owner, shall, after prescribing the main and substantial conditions of disposal, believe that those interests will be subserved if minor and subordinate regulations are intrusted to the inhabitants of the mining district or state in which the particular lands are situated? While the disposition of these lands is provided for by congressional legislation, such legislation savors somewhat of mere rules prescribed by an owner of property for its disposal. It is not of a legislative character in the highest sense of the term, and, as an owner may delegate to his principal agent the right to employ subordinates, giving to them a limited discretion, so it would seem that Congress might rightfully intrust to the local legislature the determination of minor matters respecting the disposal of these lands.
Further, 2324 distinctly grants to the miners of each mining district the power to make regulations, and the validity of this grant has been expressly affirmed by this court. In Jackson v. Roby, 109 U.S. 440, 441 , 27 S. L. ed. 990, 991, 3 Sup. Ct. Rep. 301, we said:
Now, if Congress has power to delegate to a body of miners the making of additional regulations respecting location, it cannot be doubted that it has equal power to delegate similar authority to a state legislature.
Finally, it must be observed that this legislation was enacted by Congress more than thirty years ago. It has been acted upon as valid through all the mining regions of the country. Property rights have been built up on the faith of it. To now strike it down would unsettle countless titles and work manifold injury to the great mining interests of the Far West. While, of course, consequences may not determine a decision, yet, in a doubtful case, the court may well pause before thereby it unsettles interests so many and so vast,-interests which have been built up on the faith, not merely of congressional action, but also of judicial decisions of many state courts sustaining it, and of a frequent recognition of its validity by this court. Whatever doubts might exist if this matter was wholly res integra, we have no hesitation in holding that the question must be considered as settled by prior adjudications, and cannot now be reopened.
The Montana statute (Montana Codes Annotated, 3612), among other supplementary regulations, provided that the declaratory statement filed in the office of the clerk of the county in which the lode or claim is situated must contain 'the dimensions and location of the discovery shaft, or its [196 U.S. 119, 128] equivalent, sunk upon lode or placer claims,' and 'the location and description of each corner, with the markings thereon.' A failure to comply with these regulations was the ground upon which the supreme court of Montana held the location invalid. It is contended that these provisions are too stringent, and conflict with the liberal purpose manifested by Congress in its legislation respecting mining claims. We do not think that they are open to this objection. They certainly do not conflict with the letter of any congressional statute; on the contrary, are rather suggested by 2324. It may well be that the state legislature, in its desire to guard against false testimony in respect to a location, deemed it important that full particulars in respect to the discovery shaft and the corner posts should be, at the very beginning, placed of record. Even if there were no danger of false testimony, it was not unreasonable to guard against the resurrection of incomplete locations when, by subsequent explorations, mining claims of great value have been uncovered.
We see no error in the rulings of the Supreme Court of Montana, and its judgment is affirmed.