Geomet Exploration, Limited v. Lucky Mc Uranium Corporation
601 P.2d 1339 (Ariz. 1979)

  • Under the General Mining Law of 1872 (30 U.S.C. 22), people were allowed to make claims to "valuable mineral deposits" they found on Federal lands.
    • Basically, if you discovered a valuable mineral (like gold or uranium) you could "stake a claim" and get a permit to mine the mineral and keep the profits.
  • Geologists working for Lucky detected some geologic formations that were indicative of uranium deposits on some Federal lands. Lucky staked claims on 200 plots of land, and did some test drilling.
    • They didn't actually find any uranium. They (temporarily) abandoned the land, while they focused on exploring other claims.
  • Geomet entered the land already staked by Lucky and did some drilling of their own. They actually found uranium.
  • When Geomet tried to stake a claim on the lands that Lucky had already claimed, Lucky sued for an injunction.
    • Geomet argued that the Mining Law very clearly states that discovery must precede claim locations. Since Lucky hadn't actually discovered any uranium, their claim was void.
    • Lucky argued that under Union Oil Co. v. Smith (249 U.S. 337 (1919)), they didn't need to actually have discovered it, the doctrine of pedis possessio gave them a possessory right to the property while they were exploring it.
      • The doctrine of pedis possessio says that a miner may hold the place in which he may be working against all others while he is working towards discovery.
  • The Arizona Supreme Court found for Geomet.
    • The Arizona Supreme Court looked to Cole v. Ralph (252 U.S. 286 (1920)) which said that if the first possessor should relax his occupancy or cease working towards discovery, and another enters peaceably, openly, and diligently searches for mineral, the first party forfeits their right to exclusive possession under the requirements of pedis possessio.
      • In this case, the Court found that since Lucky wasn't occupying the land, they lost the right to claim it under pedis possessio.
    • Lucky claimed that Geomet entered the land in bad faith, since they knew Lucky had already staked a claim, but the Court found that Geomet entered the land openly and peaceably, and that was enough to find they were acting in good faith.