Martin v. Kentucky Oak Mining Company

429 S.W.2d 395 (1968)

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Martin v. Kentucky Oak Mining Company

Kentucky Court of Appeals
429 S.W.2d 395 (1968)

  • Written by Tanya Munson, JD

Facts

Under a broad-form deed, the Kentucky River Coal Corporation owned coal rights in a large acreage in eastern Kentucky. Broad-form deeds were used to convey mineral rights, giving the mineral owner the right to use the surface land for all purposes deemed necessary to remove coal. LeRoy Martin and his wife (plaintiffs) owned a 10-acre parcel of land in Knott County, which had been part of a larger 90-acre tract. In 1905, the mineral rights under the 90-acre tract were conveyed by the previous owners to the grantee, Kentucky River Coal Corporation, under a broad-form deed. At the time, most surface land in Knott County was unproductive hillside land. Coal mining on the land continued under leases by Kentucky Oak Mining Company, Oak Branch Mining Company, Midland Mining Company, and North Fork Coal Company (lessee-operators) (defendants). In 1914, the process of strip mining, a process that destroyed and polluted soil and water to more effectively mine coal, began to gain popularity. In 1965, the Martins sued, alleging that KRCC and its lessee-operators (the coal companies) were proposing the commencement of strip or auger mining on the Martins’ land. The Martins sought a declaration that under the mineral deed, the owner of the minerals had no right to remove the coal by strip or auger mining. Judgment was entered declaring that the coal companies had the right to remove coal by strip or auger mining but must pay damages to the surface owner for any surface destruction. The Martins appealed, arguing that the judgment was erroneous in holding that the right to auger or strip mining exists. The Martins argued that the broad-form deed did mean that the mineral owner’s rights to use the surface in the removal of the minerals would be superior to any competing right of the surface owner.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Cullen, J.)

Dissent (Hill, J.)

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