Thursday, October 20, 2011

Sukut Construction v. Rimrock CA LLC (Cal. Ct. App. - Sept. 30, 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.