Nestled between Malpais Wilderness Area, Cerro Gorro Wilderness Study Area, the Owens Lake Bed and Death Valley National Park is Conglomerate Mesa; poised and formidable. Historically, these lands were utilized by a number of tribes native to the Owen’s Valley for hunting and pinyon nut gathering. Also, if you look closely, one can find historic mining features scattered throughout the mesa. These 5,000 acres of roadless BLM terrain are unconfined, rugged, and brimming with rich desert life. Near endangered Joshua Trees and Inyo Rock Daisies call the mesa home as well as a number of other sensitive plant specieis. Visitors enjoy hiking, striking valley views, camping, backpacking, hunting, photography, star gazing and more all in an unconfined and primitive landscape.
Conglomerate Mesa is designated as National Desert Conservation Land under the Desert Renewable Energy Conservation Plan. These lands are to be managed by the BLM for the “benefit of current and future generations” while supporting the conservation values of the landscape. However, there are threats to these lands that if not stopped, will permanently scar the landscape and forever damage the landscape…
The Threat: Open Pit Cyanide Gold Mine
Conglomerate Mesa is at the threat of a large scale, open pit cyanide gold mine. The specific kind of gold is known as Carlin, which is a fine and even powdery type of gold. The gold is extracted by piling the collected ore into heaps and then spraying cyanide over the ore to dilute it down to gold. This 24 hour a day project will require miles of water hose laid into the mesa, massive light structures powered by a 10,000-watt generator, multiple helicopter trips a day, and many more invasive actions on the land. This is the first case of mining threatening National Desert Conservation Land under the larger Desert Renewable Energy Conservation Plan. The procedures that either permit or deny this open pit gold mine will set the precedent for how stringently future mining developments will be reviewed in the future.
Most recently, an Environmental Assessment conducted by the Beaureu of Land Management in May of 2018 approved 7 exploratory drill sites accessed by helicopter. These operations are aimed to evaluate how prosperous a mining venture here would be. This will undoubtedly disrupt critical wildlife corridors, damage plant species on the fringe of endangerment, infiltrate the desert night sky, poison our water supply, taint sacred tribal lands, and much more. Friends of the Inyo and the Conglomerate Mesa Coalition filed and were approved a State Director’s review of the Environmental Assessment. The State Director will determine one of three things: 1) The current environmental assessment will stand as is 2) The project is unfit for the land and explorative drilling will not happen 3) The environmental assessment needs to be redone. Friends of the Inyo should know the State Director’s decision by the end of February. Until then, we need all hands on deck to let the BLM, County Supervisors, and State Legislatures that an open pit cyanide gold mine is not welcome at Conglomerate Mesa.
Friends of the Inyo, along with a coalition of conservation groups, individuals, businesses, recreators, tribal representatives and more have organized to send the message that an industrial-scale mine on Conglomerate Mesa is not welcome. Conglomerate Mesa deserves Joshua trees, not drill holes a thousand feet deep. Death Valley’s Doorstep deserves quiet nights with a full blanket of stars, not noise and light pollution around the clock. There is no place for a cyanide heap-leach mine on our public lands. Join Friends of the Inyo today and donate to help us in the fight for Conglomerate Mesa.