Strip mining may be permissible in Ohio wildlife areas, rules Ohio Supreme Court

The Ohio Supreme Court ruled yesterday that strip mining may be permissible in Ohio's state parks and other wildlife areas, according to an article in the Columbus Dispatch. The case before it, Snyder v. Ohio Dept. of Natural Resources, involved a split in rights for the Brush Creek Wildlife Area. The Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) owns the surface rights for this area and Ronald Snyder and Steven Neeley own the mineral rights to a 651 acre portion of it.

The Dispatch reports that Snyder and Neeley wanted to engage in strip-mining of their parcel, but ODNR claimed that it would destroy the land above and was not permissible unless it was specifically allowed by the mineral-rights deed. The language of the contract read that the mineral rights owners had "all mineral rights, including rights of ingress and egress and reasonable surface right privileges." ODNR asserted that this did not specifically permit strip-mining, so it was not permissible. The trial court agreed and granted summary judgment to ODNR, which the Seventh District affirmed.

The Supreme Court of Ohio, in a 6-1 decision penned by Justice Pfeifer, held that the rights of each party must be balanced, stating that "Each has rights that are subject to the rights of the other. Thus, the owner of the surface interest cannot reasonably claim that no minerals can be mined, just as the owner of the mineral interest cannot reasonably expect to have unfettered access to the minerals." The Court also stated that they were "disinclined to believe that strip-mining is always inconsistent with the surface owner’s rights." The Court ultimately ruled that the contract language was ambiguous enough that the case should be remanded to the trial court to make a determination as to whether strip-mining was reasonable and thus permissible in this case.

For more information about the case see this article from Court News Ohio.