Sunday, November 20, 2011

A strip mine apparently isn't a mine

Sukut Construction v. Rimrock CA LLC (Cal. Ct. App. - Sept. 30, 2011)
Thoughts on recent Ninth Circuit and California appellate cases from Professor Shaun Martin at the University of San Diego School of Law.
California Appellate Report
Shaun Martin
October 20, 2011

A strip mine apparently isn't a mine.

This according to an opinion that -- perhaps deliberately -- nowhere uses the term "strip mine." Preferring instead to call the property here a quarry. Because holding that a strip mine isn't a mine would seem even more counterintuitive. (The terms are essentially synonyms, though often suggest what types of rock/minerals are sought from the mine. Quarries often yield building rocks/gravel and dimension stones, whereas strip mines often yield coal, copper, etc.)

Notwithstanding how we use these terms, I might think that the Court of Appeal's decision made sense if the quarry/strip mine at issue here was just dredging out sand or landfill or the like. But when you're deliberately taking out certain types of rocks -- i.e., granite, pebbles, etc. -- it seems to me that it's a mine. Even without an opinion of the Attorney General that, as here, suggests that a quarry is indeed a mine. Something that's entitled to deference.

It's admittedly an issue that involves contextual statutory interpretation. But if it looks like a mine, gets rocks like a mine, sounds like a mine, and uses explosives like a mine, then it's probably a mine.

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