Unpublished Disposition, 933 F.2d 1013 (9th Cir. 1991)Annotate this Case
Nos. 90-35573, 90-35684.
United States Court of Appeals, Ninth Circuit.
Before EUGENE A. WRIGHT and O'SCANNLAIN, Circuit Judges, and PRO,* District Judge.
Add-Ventures filed its 1984 notice of intent to hold mining claims with the local recording office and the BLM about one month after the deadline set forth in 43 U.S.C. § 1744(a) (FLPMA Sec. 314(a)). Failure to meet the statutory deadline results in automatic forfeiture of the claim. 43 U.S.C. § 1744(c) (FLPMA Sec. 314(c)); see United States v. Locke, 471 U.S. 84 (1975). Nevertheless, Add-Ventures asserts "substantial compliance" with section 1744's filing requirements, referencing several letters sent to the BLM during 1984 which evidenced its intention to hold its claims.
Such letters evidencing an intent to hold a claim are not sufficient to comply with section 1744(a) (2), and thus will not avoid a forfeiture under section 1744(c). Red Top Mercury Mines, Inc. v. United States, 887 F.2d 198, 205-06 (9th Cir. 1989). Add-Ventures attempts to distinguish Red Top Mercury Mines by stressing the amount of money to be lost and the strong indications of intent manifest in the proffered letters. However, neither consideration is relevant to the application of section 1744(c). See Locke, 471 U.S. at 89 (describing money involved in Locke), 100 (evidence of intent to hold is irrelevant).
Moreover, the letters evidencing Add-Ventures's intent to hold were not filed with the local recordation office at all. Cf. 43 U.S.C. § 1744(a) (1). Under the Secretary's interpretation of section 1744(c) and of 43 C.F.R. Sec. 3833.4, the failure to comply with either sub-section 1744(a) (1) or (a) (2) gives rise to a conclusive presumption of abandonment of the claim. An agency's reasonable interpretation of relevant statutes and its own regulations is entitled to "substantial deference." Marathon Oil Co. v. United States, 807 F.2d 759, 765 (9th Cir. 1986), cert. denied, 480 U.S. 940 (1987). The agency's interpretation of FLPMA and its regulations is reasonable, and thus we reject Add-Ventures's contention.
Add-Ventures's constitutional arguments were directly or implicitly rejected by Locke. See 471 U.S. at 107 (takings clause), 108-09 (due process). As for the equal protection argument, the forfeiture provision serves the legitimate purpose of apprising the BLM of mining claims on federal land, and we cannot say that automatic forfeiture is not rationally related to that purpose.