I recently purchased a historic patented mine. There is an extensive tunnel network but some of the tunnels leading to my property have entrances off my property on National Forest land. There used to be a tunnel claim, however, that claim has lapsed. The National Forest land has more recently been turned into Wilderness so my property lines are now surrounded by Hoover Wilderness in Inyo National Forest. It's my understanding that I have a right to access my property but I'm not sure to what extent. For example, can I access my property through the old tunnel entrance? If the tunnel entrance is caved in, but somewhat easily clearable, can I re-open the tunnel?

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    Do the deeds say anything about covenants or easements, maybe with a supporting map?
    – user35069
    Mar 3, 2022 at 18:11
  • The answer is rather tricky and probably not answerable on the facts in the question alone as there are quite a few relevant facts. If I get I chance, I'll sketch it out. There are two distinct issues - (1) rights vis-a-vis surface rights owners, and (2) rights to reach the surface or access point over land over which you lack an express recorded easement. The second part is the hard part with about half a dozen theories that have to be examined to see if the relevant facts are present one by one. I've amended the tags to be more specific as this detail matters in this case.
    – ohwilleke
    Mar 3, 2022 at 21:25
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    Rick- The deed was handwritten in 1881 so my cursive interpretation may be off but the deed says: "that in the absence of necessary legislation by Congress, the legislature of California, may provide rules for working the mining claim or premises hereby granted, involving easements, drainage, and other necessary means to its complete development" The Plat does not have an easement drawn on it. But I'm not sure what the county has in terms of a record of easement. The easement would be across designated wilderness so perhaps I should contact the National Forest.
    – user44143
    Mar 3, 2022 at 22:48
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    ohwilleke- Thanks for improving the tags. Since the mine is patented I own the 20 acres on the surface. But additionally, I own the mineral rights to everything below. Since the vein is a dipping apex vein, at depth the vein moves off my property, by the lateral extent of the property lines. There use to be 20 unpatented mining claims around my property but since have been turned back over to the National Forest. One of these old claims was the tunnel claim. My guess is that this claim gave them the right to dig a tunnel to underneath my property to access the dipping vein.
    – user44143
    Mar 3, 2022 at 22:58
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    @ohwilleke I hate to dribble in the comments, but to give you a sense of what you are dealing with, a through answer is probably about 1000-2000 words for a very superficial treatment, and the main factors that are relevant are the chain of title to adjacent properties all of the way to the nearest public road, historical access routes that were used to access, two or three federal statutes effective in different parts of the U.S. at different times, the regulations in effect specific to Inyo NF, and state private condemnation laws.
    – ohwilleke
    Mar 4, 2022 at 0:19


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