Conglomerate Mesa

What’s Happening

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 April 2020, a new company officially took over the Conglomerate Mesa gold exploration project. They are called K2 Gold, headquartered in Vancouver Canada. 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. The Ridgecrest BLM will issue two public comment periods for Conglomerate Mesa and this mining proposal. First will be public scoping in the Summer of 2021. Then in the Fall, if K2 Gold is still pursuing this project, the Ridgecrest BLM will issue either a Draft Environmental Impact Statement or an Environmental Assessment. 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.

Why It Matters

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.
What We’re Doing About It

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.

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Updates

K2 Golds Expanded Drilling Proposal Requires Environmental Impact Statement | Coalition Comments

We are writing regarding K2 Gold’s expanded proposal for exploratory drilling at Conglomerate Mesa, which K2 Gold calls the “Mojave Project.” This is described on the company’s website and in an accompanying video. K2 Gold says it intends to submit an amended Plan of Operations (POO) to BLM for approval of up to 30 exploratory drill holes and an undetermined number of miles of new road construction to access the drill holes over an expansive area. The original POO was approved by BLM in 2018 as part of the Perdito Exploration Project. We are deeply concerned about the significantly expanded…

Conglomerate Mesa and K2 Gold’s Lingering Exploration Interest

Conglomerate Mesa and K2 Gold’s Lingering Exploration Interest Since the approval of the environmental assessment that allows for helicopter access exploratory drilling at Conglomerate Mesa, Friends of the Inyo and the environmental community have closely monitored mining company’s interest in pursuing this project. In June 2019, Friends of the Inyo learned that a company called K2 Gold met with Inyo County and Conglomerate Mesa claimholders, Noel Cousins and Steven Van Ert to discuss possible exploration. In the months after this meeting, we did not receive any additional intel about K2 Gold and their exploration interests.  Things at the Mesa remained…

Anniversary of California Desert Protection Act

A special day for the CDPA October 31st, 2019 marks the 25th anniversary of the California Desert Protection Act. The act that established Death Valley National Park, Joshua Tree National Park, the Mojave National Preserve and 69 wilderness areas. While the National Parks are certainly highlights of the act, it also protected places like Mal Pais Mesa Wilderness and Suprise Canyon Wilderness.  In total, the California Desert Protection Act increased protection for 8.6 million acres of the California desert. The incredible work of inspired citizens, Senator Feinstein, conservation groups, agency partners, cities, counties, recreation groups, and so many more allow…

New Company Interested in Mining Conglomerate Mesa

In April 2019, the BLM State Office upheld the Perdito Project environmental assessment that approves exploratory drilling via helicopter access at Conglomerate Mesa. This means exploratory drilling could begin anytime. While there is no company currently positioned to carry out the exploration, Friends of the Inyo recently learned that a company has visited the area and is interested in leasing the claims. That company is K2 Gold, based in Vancouver, Canada. K2 Gold is an exploration-focused mining company with many ongoing projects in the Yukon Territory and Alaska. They appear to have the resources to execute the Perdito Plan of…

2019 BioBlitz at Conglomerate Mesa

On the weekend of May 10th, Friends of the Inyo teamed up with the California Native Plant Society, Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden, and volunteers to document the flora and fauna of Conglomerate Mesa. While preparing for the trip, the weather seemed to want to play their cards close to the vest and hide what was in store for the weekend. A changing forecast of rain, partly to fully clouded skies, to sunshine led us to question whether or not we would make it up to the rugged roads to the Mesa… To our surprise, when everyone arrived Saturday, the…

CSU Long Beach Spring Outing to Conglomerate Mesa

“Oh, wow!” With wide eyes and a big grin, the last student crests the hill and catches his first views of Conglomerate Mesa. Our group, a dozen strong, gathers at the saddle just below the Mesa’s summit. Bryan Hatchell, Desert Lands Organizer at Friends of the Inyo, squats down to point out a spring parsley in bloom. The mid-day sun is warm on our backs, but now the gentle breeze from the West convinces us to put our jackets back on. We are all happy to take a break and quietly soak in the view. On Sunday, March 31st, Bryan…

Photo Tour: A Winter Trip to Conglomerate Mesa

I’ve been on several trips to Conglomerate Mesa in the spring, but never in the winter. In Fact, this was the first winter trip to Conglomerate Mesa for all of us. Since we had just hired Bryan Hatchell as Friends of the Inyo’s Desert Lands Organizer, we planned a trip to the Mesa with the goal of further familiarizing ourselves with the area and to scope for a potential outing in the near future. Conglomerate Mesa is an approximate 7,000 acre area between the Malpais Mesa Wilderness to the south and the Cerro Gordo Mine to the north. Read on…

Join us to Protect Conglomerate Mesa

Support Conglomerate Mesa ***Update 8/2/2018: It seemed when SSR withdrew their application for exploratory drilling that we were in the clear. But  the mining claim holders have requested to transfer the approved plan of operation, and BLM granted the claimants 60 days to complete the transfer requirements. The fight continues! Help us protect Conglomerate Mesa by becoming a member today!*** Picture this: a gold mine on Conglomerate Mesa. A dusty cyanide heap-leach mine where there is now a quiet, culturally rich, open space filled with Joshua trees. All on Death Valley’s doorstep. It almost happened. In mid-May, Silver Standard Resources Inc. (SSR)…

Exploratory Drilling Approved – Conglomerate Mesa

Exploratory Drilling Approved at Conglomerate Mesa The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) announced a decision allowing exploration for gold at conglomerate mesa, a remote and wild corner of Inyo county adjacent to Death Valley National Park. This decision endangers the area’s recreation- and tourism-based economy, delicate water supply, and uniquely important ecosystem and cultural resources. Click here to read our .pdf press release or see the text version below, and sign up on our mailing list to receive updates from us on Conglomerate Mesa and the Perdito project as they develop. FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE May 18, 2018 Contact: Wendy Schneider, (310)…

Timberline Resources Drilling NEPA | Coalition Comments

The CWC strongly opposes the proposed drilling because it will damage the wild character of the Malpais Mesa Proposed Wilderness Additions. CWC staff and volunteers who have visited the region consider the Malpais Mesa Proposed Wilderness Additions to be both an ecological and scenic jewel. The central feature of the proposed additions is Conglomerate Mesa, a 7,700-foot structure topped with spectacular, jagged conglomerate rock. The topography gradually drops to 3,800 feet west of the mesa. The western slope includes rolling, laminated badlands. East of the mesa, the elevation drop is precipitous, ending in flat lands at approximately 5,700 feet. From…