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ARIZONA COPPER COMPANY v. GILLESPIE

June 16, 1913

ARIZONA COPPER COMPANY, LIMITED
v.
GILLESPIE



APPEAL FROM THE SUPREME COURT OF THE TERRITORY OF ARIZONA

White, McKenna, Holmes, Day, Lurton, Hughes, Van Devanter, Lamar, Pitney

Author: Lurton

[ 230 U.S. Page 52]

 MR. JUSTICE LURTON delivered the opinion of the court.

This is a bill for an injunction to restrain the appellant from polluting a public stream, whereby the appellee has sustained a special injury as a lower proprietor.

The Arizona Copper Company, Limited, is engaged in mining and reducing copper ore near the town of Clifton, Arizona. Its concentration and reduction works, in which ores are treated, are situated upon or adjacent to small streams tributary to the Gila River. Much of the tailings and waste material from the reduction work is carried by the water used in the reducing process into the streams adjacent, or is deposited nearby and is later carried by the rains into the streams, and thence into the Gila River. The appellee, William Allen Gillespie, is the owner of 276 acres of arid land on the Gila River and some 25 miles below the point where the water polluted above finds its way into the river. He has reclaimed this land and brought it into a high state of cultivation, through irrigation, by means of water drawn from the river into the Montezuma Canal, and thence, by ditches, spread upon his cultivated land. In the dry seasons, particularly, this water so used for irrigating purposes deposits upon his land the tailings and waste material so suffered to get into the tributaries of the Gila River from the reduction works of the appellant above.

Gillespie and those preceding him in title began the irrigation and cultivation of this tract of land in or about 1872, and have continuously appropriated a sufficiency of water necessary for irrigating purposes from the river. A large body of like land situated in the same valley has been irrigated in the same way by waters drawn from the Gila River by the Montezuma and other like canals constructed and maintained for irrigating purposes, and a large agricultural community has grown up dependent upon irrigation.

[ 230 U.S. Page 53]

     In the mountains through which the streams tributary to the Gila River pass are great deposits of rock containing copper ore, and since 1872 many mines have been operated. Later the ore was treated in reduction and concentration works which have increased in extent of operations from time to time, until at the time this suit was begun the capital engaged aggregated several millions of dollars and 3,000 men were employed in and about the mining and reduction operations. Prior to 1885 the operations carried on by the mining companies do not appear to have polluted the tributaries of the Gila to any serious extent. Later the operations were enlarged and methods adopted which began to more and more seriously pollute the water used for irrigating purposes by the proprietors below. Thus both courts below found, -- "That in or about 1885 the first concentrator was erected for the reduction of ore in connection with the mining enterprise herein mentioned; . . . that some six or eight years before the institution of this action, the water of the Gila River, at other than flood periods, theretofore clear, became discolored by slimes, slickens and tailings and began to deposit such slimes, slickens and tailings through the irrigating ditches herein mentioned in the normal and necessary course of irrigation upon the lands of plaintiff and other lands herein mentioned." The court below further found that the quantity of such waste material carried by the river and deposited upon the lands of the appellee "continuously increased until after the institution of this suit." The harmful and damaging character of these deposits was found in most explicit terms by the court below, and the character of the injury elaborately explained. The appellee's bill alleged that the injury to his crops and to his land was continuous and that his remedy at law was inadequate, and his prayer was that the appellant be perpetually enjoined from polluting the streams to his injury.

[ 230 U.S. Page 54]

     Originally there were two other corporate defendants and like relief was sought against them. One was found to be improperly a party and the bill was dismissed as to it. The other defendant was the Shannon Copper Company. As to that company the court below found:

"That after the commencement of this action and before the hearing of this cause the Shannon Copper Company, in consideration of the dismissal of this action as to it, agreed to spare no reasonable effort or expense to minimize the amount of said tailings and waste material from its said works which may find their way into said river, and if possible to do so by any reasonable effort and expense, that it would prevent the flow of any of said tailings and waste material from its said works from flowing into said river, and that said efforts should be made at once, and continued without interruption until the object thereof should be accomplished."

The District Court made a full finding of facts and enjoined the appellant from "in any manner depositing or suffering or permitting to be deposited, or suffering or permitting to flow into the waters of the said Gila River, or into the San Francisco River or said Chase Creek in such manner that they may be carried into the waters of said Gila River, any slimes, slickens or tailings."

This judgment was to go into effect January 1, 1908. But when the record was filed, upon appeal, in the Supreme Court of the Territory, that court, upon a bond being executed, suspended its operation until the case should be determined by it. Upon a final hearing that court confirmed the findings of fact by the court below, but modified its judgment by permitting the appellant, at its own expense, "to construct settling basins at or near the heads of the canals, or elsewhere along the river, by means of which the tailings and ...


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