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 under the threat of a large-scale open pit cyanide gold mine.
In April 2020, K2 Gold and it’s subsidiary, Mojave Precious Metals, took over the Conglomerate Mesa gold exploration project. The company has submitted an expanded proposal requesting miles of new road construction into the Mesa and 30 additional drill sites, totaling 120 drill holes. Thanks to the 23,800 public comments received during the public scoping period for the Environmental Assessment, the Ridgecrest BLM determined the proposed exploration project would require an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS), a more rigorous and thorough analysis, to determine the suitability of the project. The Ridgecrest BLM will issue two public comment periods for Conglomerate Mesa and this mining proposal. The first will be public scoping in the Spring/Summer of 2023. Then the processes of evaluation will take approximately 18 months for the Ridgecrest BLM to issue a draft EIS. 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 destroy Conglomerate Mesa. 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 1800s.
- Conglomerate Mesa is an oasis for a number of sensitive and rare desert plants. For instance, the Mesa is a Joshua Tree woodland and refugia 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 backfilling 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 have been at the front of this battle every step of the way. With our partners, we are organizing at grassroots and grasstops to stop this mining threat. At this stage, we all must be prepared to fight K2 Gold’s destructive gold mining proposal. 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.
Please come to an Open House from 5 to 8 p.m. Friday, August 19, at our new satellite office space, located at 142 East Bush Street, across from the post office in Lone Pine. There will be free food, drinks, and the opportunity to meet our board and staff, and to mix & mingle with your Eastern Sierra neighbors. No RSVP necessary. Just show up! While Friends of the Inyo has always worked to protect and care for the lands of Southern Inyo County, the opening of our Lone Pine office is an important demonstration of our long-term commitment to…
Have a listen to Wendy’s talk with Golden State Naturalist podcast creator and host Michelle Fullner about Conglomerate Mesa, a majestic Joshua Tree-studded landscape and Dark Desert Sky mecca Friends of the Inyo, together with other desert protection organizations and local Native Tribes, is working to protect from destructive mining.
In case you missed Monday’s Washington Post, we have a link to a front-page article titled “A new gold rush pits money and jobs against California’s environment,” which mentions Friends of the Inyo and our fight to protect Conglomerate Mesa from mining interests. Read all about it!
For me, Friends of the Inyo’s Dark Desert Skies Campout (May 20-22) was just as much about all we can see under Daytime Desert Skies! By Kayla Browne, Desert Lands Organizer Friends of the Inyo had a wonderful group of friends come out to learn more about dark skies and the beauty of Conglomerate Mesa and Centennial Flat over our three-day Dark Desert Skies Campout event that began with an educational evening at the Museum of Western Film History in Lone Pine. On Friday evening, May 20, we premiered “Island in the Sky,” a short film produced by Patagonia about…
The latest issue of Friends of the Inyo’s Jeffrey Pine Journal, now in its twentieth year, features timely conservation-related topics such as fire management, wayward balloon litter in nature, the 30×30 Initiative to conserve 30 percent of our public lands and coastal waters by 2030, and more. Click on the image above or this link to access and download a pdf version. Happy reading! Please remember that you can get a hard copy of the Jeffrey Pine Journal delivered to your home twice a year, in Spring and Fall, as one of the perks of membership with Friends of the…
By Jora Fogg, FOI Policy Director Last month, in conjunction with Earth Day, the California Natural Resources Agency (CNRA) released their final Pathways to 30×30: Accelerating Conservation of California’s Nature strategy to forward the global effort to conserve 30 percent of lands and coastal waters by 2030 (30×30). The plan focuses on protecting the state’s biodiversity, advancing equitable access to nature and addressing the climate crisis. The Pathways document was crafted by a dedicated team at CNRA through months of public engagement. More than 4,100 Californians engaged with the state to provide input through more than a dozen public meetings,…
We strongly recommend this read. Happy reading…And happy sharing!
Still Celebrating a BIG Win for Conglomerate Mesa! By Kayla Browne, Desert Lands Organizer After four years of defending Conglomerate Mesa from the greedy hands of K2 Gold and its subsidiary Mojave Precious Metals, we finally got a temporary win. On March 17th, K2 Gold announced in a press release an “indefinite suspension of activities at the Mojave Project.” K2 is the 11th company to threaten the Mesa since the 1980s. Conglomerate Mesa, the ancestral homelands and traditional territories of the Timbisha Shoshone and Paiute-Shoshone Tribes, is located in a remote area of the Inyo Mountains, east of Keeler, on…
“Worth More Than Gold Bike Tour” April 21 – 27 By Emily Markstein and Amber Rassler: The dream for this bike tour began last winter when Amber and I spent our weekends biking the Eastern Sierra. As we wandered roads less traveled, we dreamed about integrating our love for biking with our passion for environmental advocacy and action. At the heart of our conversations was the desire to add extrinsic value and purpose to our intrinsic weekend activity. After months of conversation, we saw an opportunity to make our dreams a reality. In May of 2021, we discovered a foreign…
Great coverage on the ongoing fight to ensure permanent protection for the “Sky Island” that is Conglomerate Mesa in Southern Inyo County.
Yesterday (3/17/22) K2 Gold, a Canadian mining company doing business in Southern Inyo County, announced that it is indefinitely suspending its controversial gold drilling project on Conglomerate Mesa, public lands located on the doorstep of Death Valley National Park. Tribes and other local groups are celebrating the news given the project posed a serious threat to Conglomerate Mesa’s ecological, cultural, and recreational values. Indeed, Conglomerate Mesa is “Richer Without K2 Gold.”
Since 1996, Public News Service has pioneered a model of member-supported journalism to engage, educate and advocate for the public interest. As a national network of 37 state-based news services, NPS’s journalists are on the ground in communities throughout the country, seeking out stories on critical issues that receive too little attention and helping to lift up marginalized voices that too often go unheard. Thanks to this new partnership, stories on the public lands protection and advocacy work of Friends of the Inyo will be disseminated widely to news outlets throughout California and beyond.