Cole v. Ralph
United States Supreme Court
252 U.S. 286 (1920)
The General Mining Law of 1872 (mining law) permitted citizens to make claims for minerals found on federal land. Under the mining law, once a miner discovered valuable minerals in an area, the miner could mark the boundaries of the miner’s claim through the act of location. There were two types of claims, lode and placer. Lode claims required the discovery of a vein of rock in-place containing valuable minerals. Placer claims required the discovery of valuable minerals that had been dislodged from their veins by geological processes. Joseph Ralph (defendant) made lode locations for minerals on public lands in 1897 and 1907. In 1913, Guy Davis and Homestake made placer locations for minerals in the area of Ralph’s lode locations. The evidence showed that adequate discoveries of placer gold had been made within the limits of Davis and Homestake’s placer location to establish placer claims. Later, Davis and Homestake transferred their interest in the placer claims to George Cole (plaintiff). Ralph eventually applied for a mining patent for his lode claims. Although Ralph had ownership of buildings that covered part of his lode claims and maintained a watchman on the site, there was a dispute over whether Ralph had made the discoveries required to establish a claim for the mineral deposits for which he had established a location. Cole brought an adverse claim against Ralph for the placer claims. Cole presented evidence that the locators of his claims openly entered the area and discovered the claims. There was no evidence that the locators of Cole’s claims committed any fraudulent acts in the process of locating and discovering the placer claims. In fact, it appeared that Ralph’s watchman made no objection to the entrance upon the land in which Cole’s placer claims were discovered. The jury ultimately found that Ralph had not discovered a lode claim before the discoveries of the placer claims were made. The jury returned general verdicts for Cole regarding his placer claims. Ralph appealed. The court of appeals reversed the verdicts. Cole appealed.
Rule of Law
Holding and Reasoning (Van Devanter, J.)
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