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 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.

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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 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.
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.

Updates

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…