Andrus v. Charlestone Stone Products Co Inc, No. 77-380

CourtUnited States Supreme Court
Writing for the CourtMARSHALL
Citation436 U.S. 604,98 S.Ct. 2002,56 L.Ed.2d 570
PartiesCecil D. ANDRUS, Secretary of the Interior, Petitioner, v. CHARLESTONE STONE PRODUCTS CO., INC
Docket NumberNo. 77-380
Decision Date31 May 1978

436 U.S. 604
98 S.Ct. 2002
56 L.Ed.2d 570
Cecil D. ANDRUS, Secretary of the Interior, Petitioner,

v.

CHARLESTONE STONE PRODUCTS CO., INC.

No. 77-380.
Argued April 18, 1978.
Decided May 31, 1978.
Syllabus

The basic federal mining statute, 30 U.S.C. § 22, which derives from an 1872 law, provides that "all valuable mineral deposits in lands belonging to the United States . . . shall be free and open to exploration and purchase." Respondent, after purchasing a number of mining claims, discovered water on one of them (Claim 22) and used the water to prepare for commercial sale the sand and gravel removed from the claims. On review of unfavorable administrative decisions against respondent's claims in proceedings challenging their validity, the District Court held, inter alia, that respondent was entitled to access to Claim 22's water, and the Court of Appeals affirmed, adding sua sponte that Claim 22 itself is valid because of the water thereon. Held : Water is not a "valuable mineral" within the meaning of 30 U.S.C. § 22, and hence is not a locatable mineral thereunder. Pp. 610-617.

(a) The fact that water may be a "mineral" in the broadest sense of that word is not sufficient for a holding that a claimant has located a "valuable mineral deposit" under § 22; nor is the fact that water may be valuable or marketable enough to support a mining claim's validity based on the presence of water. In order for a claim to be valid, the substance discovered must not only be a "valuable mineral" within the dictionary definition of those words, it must also be the type of valuable mineral that the 1872 Congress intended to make the basis of a valid claim. Pp. 610-611.

(b) The relevant statutory provisions, which reflect the view that water is not a locatable mineral under the mining statutes and that private water rights on federal lands are to be governed by state and local law and custom; the history out of which such statutes arose; the decisions of the Department of the Interior construing the statutes in line with such view; and the practical problems that would arise if two overlapping systems for acquisition of private water rights were permitted, all support the conclusion that Congress did not intend water to be locatable under the federal mining law. Pp. 611-617.

553 F.2d 1209, reversed.

Page 605

Sara S. Beale, Washington, D. C., for petitioner.

Gerry Levenberg, Washington, D. C., for respondent.

Mr. Justice MARSHALL delivered the opinion of the Court.

Under the basic f deral mining statute, which derives from an 1872 law,1 "all valuable mineral deposits in lands belonging to the United States" are declared "free and open to exploration and purchase." 30 U.S.C. § 22.2 The question presented

Page 606

is whether water is a "valuable mineral" as those words are used in the mining law.

I

A claim to federal land containing "valuable mineral deposits" may be "located" by complying with certain procedural requisites; one who locates a claim thereby gains the exclusive right to possession of the land, as well as the right to extract minerals from it. See generally 30 U.S.C. §§ 21-54; 1 American Law of Mining § 1.17 (1973). The claim at issue in this case, known as Claim 22, is one of a group of 23 claims near Las Vegas, Nev., that were located in 1942. In 1962, after respondent had purchased these claims, it discovered water on Claim 22 by drilling a well thereon. This water was used to prepare for commercial sale the sand and gravel removed from some of the 23 claims.

In 1965, the Secretary of the Interior filed a complaint with the Bureau of Land Management, seeking to have all of these claims declared invalid on the ground that the only minerals discovered on them were "common varieties" of sand and gravel, which had been expressly excluded from the definition of "valuable minerals" by a 1955 statute. § 3, 69 Stat. 368, 30 U.S.C. § 611.3 At the administrative hearing

Page 607

on the Secretary's complaint, the principal issue was whether the sand and gravel deposits were "valuable" prior to the effective date of the 1955 legislation, in which case the claims would be valid.4 The Administrative Law Judge concluded after hearing the evidence that respondent had established pre-1955 value only as to Claim 10. On appeals taken by both respondent and the Government, the Interior Board of Land Appeals (IBLA) affirmed the Administrative Law Judge in all respects here relevant. 9 I. B. L. A. 94 (1973).5

Respondent sought review in the United States District Court for the District of Nevada.6 The court concluded that

Page 608

the decisions of the Administrative Law Judge and the IBLA were not supported by the evidence and that "at least" Claims 1 through 16 were valid. App. to Pet. for Cert. 26a. The court further held "that access to Claim No. 22 must be permitted so that the water produced from the well on that claim may be made available to the operations on the valid claims." Ibid. The IBLA's decision was accordingly vacated, and the case remanded to the Department of the Interior.

On the Government's appeal, the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit affirmed. 553 F.2d 1209 (1977). It agreed with the District Court as to Claims 1

Page 609

through 16 and also agreed that respondent was entitled to access to the water on Claim 22. It grounded the latter conclusion, however, 'upon a rationale other than that relied upon by the District Court," id., at 1215, a rationale that had not been briefed or argued in either the District Court or the Court of Appeals. Noting that "[s]ince early times, water has been regarded as a mineral," ibid., the appellate court stated that it could not assume "that Congress was not aware of the necessary glove of water for the hand of mining and [that] Congress impliedly intended to reserve water from those minerals allowed to be located and recovered," id., at 1216. Since the water at Claim 22 "has an intrinsic value in the desert area" and has additional value at the particular site "as a washing agent for . . . sand and gravel," the court ruled that respondent's "claim for the extraction of [Claim 22's] water is valid." Ibid.7

The difference between the District Court's and the Court of Appeals' rationales for allowing access to Claim 22 is a significant one. The District Court held only that respondent is entitled to use the water on the claim; the Court of Appeals, by contrast, held that the claim itself is valid. If the claim is indeed valid, respondent is not merely entitled to access to the water thereon, but also has exclusive possessory rights to the land and may keep others from making any use of it. By complying with certain procedures, moreover, respondent could secure a "patent" from the Government conveying fee simple title to the land. See 30 U.S.C. §§ 29, 37; 1 American Law of Mining § 1.23 (1973). See generally Union Oil Co. v. Smith, 249 U.S. 337, 348-349, 39 S.Ct. 308, 310-311, 63 L.Ed. 635 (1919). In

Page 610

view of the significance of the determination that a mining claim to federal land is valid, the Government sought review here of the Court of Appeals' sua sponte holding regarding Claim 22's validity. The single question presented in the petition is "[w]hether water is a locatable mineral under the mining law of 1872." Pet. for Cert. 2.

We granted certiorari, 434 U.S. 964, 98 S.Ct. 501, 54 L.Ed.2d 449 (1977), and we now reverse.

II

We may assume for purposes of this decision that the Court of Appeals was correct in concluding that water is a "mineral," in the broadest sense of that word, and that it is "valuable." Both of these facts are necessary to a holding that a claimant has located a "valuable mineral deposit" under the 1872 law, 30 U.S.C. § 22, but they are hardly sufficient.

This Court long ago recognized that the word "mineral," when used in an Act of Congress, cannot be given its broadest definition. In construing an Act granting certain public lands, except "mineral lands," to a railroad, the Court wrote:

"The word 'mineral' is used in so many senses, dependent upon the context, that the ordinary definitions of the dictionary throw but little light upon its signification in a given case. Thus the scientific division of all matter into the animal, vegetable or mineral kingdom would be absurd as applied to a grant of lands, since all lands belong to the mineral kingdom . . . . Equally subversive of the grant would be the definition of minerals found in the Century Dictionary: as 'any constituent of the earth's crust' . . . ." Northern Pacific R. Co. v. Soderberg, 188 U.S. 526, 530, 23 S.Ct. 365, 367, 47 L.Ed. 575 (1903).

In the context of the 1872 mining law, similar conclusions must be drawn. As one court observed, if the term "mineral" in the statute were construed to encompass all substances that are conceivably mineral, "there would be justification for making mile locations on virtually every part of the earth's

Page 611

surface," since "a very high proportion of the substances of the earth are in that sense 'mineral.' " Rummell v. Bailey, 7 Utah 2d 137, 140, 320 P.2d 653, 655 (1958). See also Robert L. Beery, 25 I. B. L. A. 287, 294-296 (1976) (noting that "common dirt," while literally a mineral, cannot be considered locatable under the mining law); Holman v. Utah, 41 L.D. 314, 315 (1912); 1 American Law of Mining, supra, § 2.4, p. 168.

The fact that water may be valuable or marketable similarly is not enough to support a mining claim's validity based on the presence of water. Many substances present on the land may be of value, and indeed it seems likely that land itself—especially land located just 15 miles from downtown Las Vegas, see 553 F.2d, at 1211—has, in the Court of Appeals' words, "an intrinsic value," id., at 1216. Yet the federal mining law surely was not intended to be a general real estate law; as one commentator has written, "the Congressional mandate did...

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147 practice notes
  • Southern Ute Indian Tribe v. Amoco Production Co., Civ. A. No. 91-B-2273.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 10th Circuit. United States District Court of Colorado
    • September 13, 1994
    ...land grant and, second, such grants should be interpreted in favor of the government. Andrus v. Charlestone Stone Products Co. Inc., 436 U.S. 604, 617, 98 S.Ct. 2002, 2009-10, 56 L.Ed.2d 570 (1978). The Tribe overlooks, however, an equally well established exception to these rules. Public l......
  • National Wildlife Federation v. Burford, No. 86-5239
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    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (District of Columbia)
    • December 15, 1987
    ...rights to exploit the minerals that they find and may proceed to gain title in fee simple. See Andrus v. Charlestone Stone Products Co., 436 U.S. 604, 98 S.Ct. 2002, 56 L.Ed.2d 570 (1978). Finally, about 8 million acres have been opened to mineral leasing and 4.4 million acres have been ope......
  • Genentech, Inc. v. Eli Lilly and Co., No. 91-1249
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    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit
    • July 1, 1993
    ...Bradley v. School Bd., 416 U.S. 696, 711, 94 S.Ct. 2006, 2016, 40 L.Ed.2d 476 (1974); see Andrus v. Charlestone Stone Prods. Co., 436 U.S. 604, 607-08 n. 6, 98 S.Ct. 2002, 2004-05 n. 6, 56 L.Ed.2d 570 (1978) (applying statute enacted while appeal was pending). This general rule has been app......
  • National Corn Growers Ass'n v. Baker, Nos. 87-1147
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    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit
    • February 9, 1988
    ...Trade jurisdiction to review the Customs Service actions in question. We disagree. See, e.g., Andrus v. Charlestone Stone Products Co., 436 U.S. 604, 607 n. 6, 98 S.Ct. 2002, 2005 n. 6, 56 L.Ed.2d 570 (1978); Califano v. Sanders, 430 U.S. 99, 97 S.Ct. 980, 51 L.Ed.2d 192 (1977); Rhodes v. U......
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147 cases
  • Southern Ute Indian Tribe v. Amoco Production Co., Civ. A. No. 91-B-2273.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 10th Circuit. United States District Court of Colorado
    • September 13, 1994
    ...land grant and, second, such grants should be interpreted in favor of the government. Andrus v. Charlestone Stone Products Co. Inc., 436 U.S. 604, 617, 98 S.Ct. 2002, 2009-10, 56 L.Ed.2d 570 (1978). The Tribe overlooks, however, an equally well established exception to these rules. Public l......
  • Montara Water and Sanitary v. County of San Mateo, Case No. C 08-2814 JF (RS).
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. Northern District of California
    • February 26, 2009
    ...federal land are at issue, any doubts `are resolved for the Government, not against it.'" Andrus v. Charlestone Stone Products Co., Inc., 436 U.S. 604, 617, 98 S.Ct. 2002, 56 L.Ed.2d 570 (1978) (quoting Union Pacific, 353 U.S. at 116, 77 S.Ct. 685).9 Here, the airport deed explicitly broade......
  • Wilder v. Prokop, No. 84-2540
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    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (10th Circuit)
    • May 10, 1988
    ...Chrysler Corporation v. Brown, 441 U.S. 281, 317 n. 47, 99 S.Ct. 1705, 1725, n. 47 (1979); Andrus v. Charlestone Stone Products Co., Inc., 436 U.S. 604, 607-608 n. 6, 98 S.Ct. 2002, 2005, n. 6 (1978) Hadley Memorial Hospital, Inc. v. Schweiker, 689 F.2d 905, 911 (10th Cir.1982); Merrion v. ......
  • Abrams v. Societe Nationale Des Chemins, No. CIV.A.00-CV-5326(DGT).
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 2nd Circuit. United States District Court (Eastern District of New York)
    • November 5, 2001
    ...statute under which it had been (properly) filed was subsequently repealed. Conversely, in Andrus v. Charlestone Stone Products Co., 436 U.S. 604, 607-608, n. 6, 98 S.Ct. 2002, 2005, n. 6, 56 L.Ed.2d 570 (1978), we held that, because a statute passed while the case was pending on appeal had......
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