FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Mining Project Proponents Block Meaningful Public Participation at Town Hall
Local businesses, Indigenous leaders, and environmental groups were unable to provide comment and ask questions during the event
LONE PINE, CA – On Wednesday, March 24th, Mojave Precious Metals and K2 Gold hosted a virtual “Community Town Hall” about their upcoming road construction and exploratory drilling at National Conservation Lands site Conglomerate Mesa. With roughly 200 people in attendance, community members were eager to share their perspectives and ask company representatives questions about their exploration. But when community members showed up, they quickly found that this Town Hall was anything but community-oriented.
“When our local community joined the K2 Gold/Mojave Precious Metals Zoom Town Hall, we showed up to locked comment boxes and hidden screens. All you could see was the company. Everyone who attended the meeting was completely in the dark about who else was there and what questions were being asked,” said Jeremiah Joseph, Cultural Monitor for the Lone Pine Paiute Shoshone Tribe. “The community sat alone in their homes and listened to the company talk at us, rather than talk with us. We could not even see our neighbor’s faces on Zoom.”
In the first half of the presentation, the company provided background on their staff and the drilling program at Conglomerate Mesa. In the final half of the meeting, the company began to answer questions, which were pre-screened through email submission. No information about submitting questions beforehand was provided in the promotional materials for the Town Hall. In an attempt to make their voices heard, local leaders and community groups began adding comments and questions via Facebook, where the event was live-streamed. In total, the comment section amassed nearly 400 comments by the end of the presentation, almost all of which were squarely in opposition to exploration at Conglomerate Mesa.
Fifteen minutes after the presentation, the company deleted all records of the Facebook Live video and deleted all of the comments made during the presentation. Local groups recorded the entirety of the webinar and plan to share it online.
“People need to understand that this company is attempting to bury the voices of opposition to their project” said Wendy Schneider, Executive Director of Friends of the Inyo. “It seems these companies are not interested in actually addressing any of the concerns raised by the community. For example, locals are legitimately concerned about water, which is such a precious resource around here. The company would not answer questions about where it would legitimately obtain water for an expanded exploration, or for a mine. It seems they are willing to do and say anything to obtain the approval and resources necessary to forever alter this precious landscape for their exclusive financial benefit.”
When asked about jobs provided in their last drilling, K2 Gold shared that they have not employed a single local Inyo County resident. The drill team came from Canada, geologists were brought in from San Bernardino, the helicopter pilot and mechanic were not from Inyo County and they hired a consultant from Alabama.
“I’m not sure how the company can claim they’re bettering our economy by creating jobs when they’re not hiring locally. Let’s be clear – there’s a distinct difference between creating local jobs and importing employees to work in our county. Your neighbor down the street is not being hired by K2 Gold.” said Todd Vogel, Co-Owner of Eastside Sports.
Many are calling attention to the fact that the company does not have the formal support of local Tribal Nations. “The company claims to have great working relationships with the local tribes,” said Kathy Bancroft, Tribal Historic Preservation Officer for the Lone Pine Paiute Shoshone Tribe. “My experience has been anything but great. The Lone Pine Tribe has a General Council form of government, meaning all tribal members vote on support or opposition to a project. The tokenizing of one or two voices within the tribe does not constitute support of the Lone Pine Tribe for their exploratory drilling”.
“I think what broke my heart the most about the presentation is that the landscape in question, Conglomerate Mesa, was not mentioned until 41 minutes into the webinar” continues Jeremiah Joseph. “We can’t lose sight of the landscape at stake with this mining work. Boxing people into debates or pro-mine or anti-mine or pro-jobs or anti-jobs is a disservice to the landscape. This is a site-specific issue. Why Conglomerate Mesa? For me, it’s the homeland of my people and it deserves our protection. Conglomerate Mesa is just too special.”
For ongoing updates on Conglomerate Mesa visit protectconglomeratemesa.com.
Background on the Conglomerate Mesa Coalition
The Conglomerate Mesa Coalition comprises a diverse group of organizations, tribal nations, and local businesses that support the immediate protection of Conglomerate Mesa for the land’s cultural, historical, conservation, and recreation values from extractive industries like mining. These entities also oppose all mining activities by K2 Gold on Conglomerate Mesa. For more information about the Conglomerate Mesa Coalition, click here.