The Perdito Project environmental assessment approving exploratory drilling via helicopter access was upheld by the BLM State Office in April. This means exploratory drilling at Conglomerate Mesa could begin anytime. Friends of the Inyo, our partners, and the constituency of businesses and citizens who oppose exploration are intensely monitoring this project. While no public notice is required if the project starts up, we will know if exploratory mining activities commence. Any exploratory drilling or mining project at Conglomerate Mesa will be met with strong local and regional opposition. The people of Inyo County have made it abundantly clear that an open-pit cyanide heap leach gold mine and any associated exploratory drilling is not welcome at Conglomerate Mesa.
More details below.
Nestled between Malpais Wilderness Area, Cerro Gordo Wilderness Study Area, the Owens Lake Bed and Death Valley National Park is Conglomerate Mesa; poised and formidable. These 5,000 acres of roadless BLM terrain are unconfined, rugged, and brimming with rich desert life and cultural history. To this day these lands are utilized by a number of tribes native to the Owen’s Valley for exploration, hunting, and pinyon nut gathering. Also, if you look closely, one can find historic mining features scattered throughout the mesa. Threatened Joshua Trees and Inyo Rock Daisies call the mesa home as well as a number of other sensitive plant species. 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 California Desert National Conservation Land and protected by 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 and recreation values of the landscape. However, there are threats to these lands that if not stopped, will permanently scar 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 is the first case of a mining threat to 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. However, before a mine can happen, exploration must be conducted.
Most recently, an Environmental Assessment conducted by the Bureau of Land Management in May of 2018 approved 7 exploratory drill sites accessed by helicopter. These operations are aimed to evaluate the viability of a gold mining operation at Conglomerate Mesa. This 24/7 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 mesa. This will undoubtedly disrupt critical wildlife, damage plant species, pollute the desert night sky, drain an extremely scarce water supply, taint sacred tribal lands, and much more. With an approved environmental assessment, upheld by the BLM state office, drilling could begin anytime. No public notice is required when a new company joins this project and begins exploration. We need all hands on deck to let any company who considers joining this project know that opposition is strong and they will be met with heavy resistance. An open-pit cyanide heap leach gold mine and any associated exploratory drilling is not welcome at Conglomerate Mesa.
Map by Matt Stevenson CoreGis
Since the 1980s over 10 companies have examined Conglomerate Mesa for mineral extraction. Every single one of these companies, for one reason or another, has left empty-handed. While Conglomerate Mesa possesses some protective provisions thanks to the CDPA and DRECP, it deserves permanent protection from future mining. Permanent protection can take many forms but one thing clear; to avoid perennial mining battles we need a mineral withdrawal at Conglomerate Mesa. Friends of the Inyo and our allies will continue to protect Conglomerate Mesa from mining while organizing stakeholders to seek permanent protection.
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.
To sign the Citizens Letter of Support, click the link below, sign your name, and send it to us:
- via email to:
- via mail to:
Friends of the Inyo
819 N. Barlow Ln.
Bishop, CA 93514