Murray v. BEJ Minerals, LLC

Two dinosaurs (a theropod and ceratopsian) fight, die some 66 million years ago in what is now Garfield County, Mont. Their fossils, still intertwined, are now extremely valuable. But do they belong to the surface-estate landowner or to party that owns the rights to mine minerals on the land? To the mineral rights owner, says the Ninth Circuit; fossils are minerals under Montana law. Judge Murguia, dissenting: Fossils are indeed organic matter that become a mineral compound over time, but they are not mined, they are not typically extracted for economic purpose, and they just aren’t minerals as the term is ordinarily understood. (Click herefor the Smithsonian’s take on whether the public will ever get to see the dueling dinos.)

Tags: 2018, Judge Murguia, Ninth Circuit, Property Law, Property Rights

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