Millions at stake in dinosaur issue: Are fossils minerals?

The discovery of two fossilized dinosaur skeletons intertwined in what looks like a final death match could make a central Montana ranching couple rich beyond their wildest dreams. (File)
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HELENA, Mont. (AP) The discovery of two fossilized dinosaur skeletons intertwined in what looks like a final death match could make a central Montana ranching couple rich beyond their wildest dreams.

Or, they may have to share the wealth.

It all comes down to how the state Supreme Court answers a seemingly simple question: Are fossils minerals?

The outcome is key to a federal case over ownership of the "dueling dinosaurs," worth more than $5 million, and distribution of millions of dollars in proceeds from the sale of other fossils unearthed on the property.

A federal appeals court asked the justices whether fossil finds in Montana are part of the surface estate or the mineral rights.

The ranch has split ownership.

The state justices heard arguments Thursday but did not make a ruling.