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 22,500 acres of roadless BLM terrain are unconfined, rugged, and brimming with rich desert life and cultural history. Yet, despite the many values of this land, Conglomerate Mesa is at the threat of a large scale open pit cyanide gold mine.
In 2018 the gold mining threat took another step towards reality when the BLM completed an Environmental Assessment (EA) permitting exploratory drilling via helicopter access only at Conglomerate Mesa. The EA allows for 16 drill holes at four locations, each 1,000 feet deep. The project requires multiple light rigs operating 24/7 and will consume 1,000 gallons of water a day. The source of water for this project is unknown.
In April 2020, a new company officially took over the Conglomerate Mesa gold exploration project. They are called K2 Gold, headquartered in Vancouver Canada. Not only did they adopt the helicopter exploration project but they submitted an expanded proposal requesting road construction into the Mesa and 30 additional drill sites. K2 Gold began the helicopter project this year and will drill all four sites and 16 holes. Over the coming months, the BLM will process the expanded proposal and either publish an Environmental Assessment or Environmental Impact Statement, which will elicit a public comment period. While there is not much we can do about the helicopter portion of the project, the people of Inyo County and the California Desert will do everything in their power to halt the road construction project and additional drilling in its tracks.
In the face of this threat, Friends of the Inyo and our partners are seeking permanent protection of this beloved desert gem. Without it, we will continue to fight perennial battles with mining companies who want to destroy this land.
K2 Gold wants to mine the entire mountain. Together, we will stop them.
Conglomerate Mesa is too special a place to sacrifice to industrial-scale mining. These activities would permanently destroy important cultural, historic and geologic values that for so long have meant so much to so many. These resources deserve to be preserved for future generations.
- Conglomerate Mesa allows for unconfined recreation and solitude. Accessed by foot or a challenging 4×4 wash, the mesa provides for hunters, desert sky seekers, backpackers, campers, photographers and so much more.
- The history of human presence at Conglomerate Mesa runs deep. This land was home to populations long before European settlements. To this day, The Paiute and Shoshone tribes of the Owen’s Valley/Payahuunadu visit Conglomerate Mesa. The land has become an important site for annual pinyon nut harvest.
- Historic era mining features can also be found at Conglomerate Mesa. Charcoal pits found on the Mesa are particularly associated with early charcoal production for Cerro Gordo and smelters in the Owens Valley. Also, an old trade route called the Historic Keeler-Death Valley trail traverses the north end of the mesa and dates back to the late 1800’s.
- Conglomerate Mesa is an oasis for a number of sensitive and rare desert plants. For instance, the Mesa is a Joshua Tree woodland and oasis for the species. Conglomerate Mesa provides a place for Joshua Trees to thrive as we begin to lose this iconic species at lower elevations.
- Conglomerate Mesa is geologically significant, providing an unusually complete record that is key to unraveling the evolution of the continental edge of the southwestern US. This record would be destroyed forever by open-pit mining and cannot be made right through back filling or reclamation.
- Conglomerate Mesa is designated as California Desert National Conservation Land (CDNCL) and protected by the Desert Renewable Energy Conservation Plan (DRECP). 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. Conglomerate Mesa is a test of this plan. The procedures that either permit or deny exploration and the larger mine will set precedent for future mines on CDNCL and DRECP land.
Friends of the Inyo has been at the front of this battle every step of the way. At this stage, we all must be prepared to fight K2 Gold’s future proposal. We must know who this company is and their intentions for Conglomerate Mesa. The best way to do so this at this time is to go their youtube page where K2 Gold has posted a number of videos detailing their plans. Armed with this knowledge and our passion for Conglomerate Mesa, we will oppose this project with full force once a public comment period opens. We estimate that to be in late Fall or early Winter. FOI is leading virtual trips and educating all who will listen while the community strives to permanently protect Conglomerate Mesa. We encourage you to join us in this fight! The Conglomerate Mesa newsletter and the general Friends of the Inyo newsletter is the best way to stay up to date on the latest information regarding the gold mining threat, outings, and the permanent protection campaign.
Changes to Desert Plan by Trump administration threaten California Desert Proposed rollbacks to the Desert Renewable Energy Conservation Plan threaten 2.2 million acres of precious California Desert lands “The Trump Administration continues its assault on public lands with an eleventh-hour attempt to gut the Desert Renewable Energy Conservation Plan (DRECP). These egregious proposed changes to a balanced and comprehensive desert plan that was nearly ten years in the making will strip meaningful protections for treasured places like Panamint Valley and Conglomerate Mesa. These and many other special places in the desert were set aside for conservation and recreation because of…
In this newsletter, you’ll learn about the upcoming project timeline, action you can take, insights from a K2 Gold investors meeting, and findings from a wildlife biologist, Rachel Woodard! As we fight to protect Conglomerate Mesa, we must remember why we fight this fight. We fight to show solidarity with the Tribal Nations who have long protected Conglomerate Mesa. We fight for social justice. We fight for wildlife, the Joshua Trees and Inyo Rock Daisies that can’t speak for themselves. Together, we will send K2 Gold home and protect Conglomerate Mesa. Thank you for tuning in to Vol. 6 of the Conglomerate Mesa Newsletter.
Take an EcoFlight Over Conglomerate Mesa Join us on a guided flight over Conglomerate Mesa with Desert Lands Organizer Bryan Hatchell in this video created by our partners at EcoFlight. View the Mesa from a whole new perspective and learn about the area’s precious values and the threats they are facing from mining giant K2 Gold and their “Mojave Project.” Join us in fighting for the protection of Conglomerate Mesa. EcoFlight educates and advocates for the protection of remaining wild lands and wildlife habitat using small aircraft. The aerial perspective and our educational programs encourage an environmental stewardship ethic among citizens…