Panamint Valley Lithium Mine Update

Photo: Tom Budlong

In April this year, Friends of the Inyo submitted comments on an Environmental Assessment proposing exploratory drilling for lithium in Panamint Valley. This project, lead by Battery Minerals Inc., proposes four drill sites north of Trona located off Ballarat Rd, Wingate Rd., and Indian Ranch Rd. In early August, much to the disappointment of Friends of the Inyo, the project was approved by the BLM. Battery Minerals Inc. can move forward with exploration operations.

In our comments, we highlight a number of inadequacies in the environmental assessment. For example, it’s possible that the projects groundwater consumption will reduce water flows to terminal playa lakes and springs leading to earlier drying of the Warm Sulphur Springs and Post Office Springs. Also, the BLM conducted their baseline biological surveys in the inappropriate season for the area’s annual species. It is likely that many specimens were missed in the analysis, rendering it inadequate. Finally, the EA states that the sump ponds used to hold drilling fluid waste will be lined with a permeable liner, which allows drill fluids to seep into the ground. We recommend that the sumps should be lined with impermeable liners to avoid seeping of drill fluid into the earth.

We must recognize Panamint Valley, the treasures it possesses, and it’s need for protection. Friends of the Inyo has, and will continue to lead outings and promote Panamint Valley in local press. For example, you can join us October 19th for an outing in Panamint Valley and Surprise Canyon Wilderness. We will visit some of the drill locations and learn firsthand what is as stake if an industrial scale lithium mine comes to fruition. Email to RSVP.

Panamint Valley is a desert gem we can’t afford to lose. We must keep in sight what would follow a positive lithium finding; an industrial-scale lithium brine evaporation mine. While we do need lithium to help bring us towards a renewable future, we have to be strategic in where we source our minerals. Panamint Valley is the homeland of the Timbisha Shoshone, a neighbor to Death Valley National Park, a sanctuary for Desert bighorn sheep and the endangered Inyo Towhee, and a window into the past of historic desert mining. This land is not the place for lithium exploration, nor a lithium mine.