THE CONGLOMERATE MESA PROJECT
Remote and roadless Conglomerate Mesa, adjacent to Death Valley National Park, is under threat from mining interests. The Bureau of Land Management is considering a proposal from Mojave Precious Metals, a subsidiary of the Canadian mining corporation K2Gold, to explore for low-grade gold ore as part of its plan to put a massive cyanide heap-leach gold mine on Conglomerate Mesa, just east of Owens Lake in the scenic Inyo Mountains. In 2016 it was designated as part of the National Landscape Conservation System in recognition of its outstanding cultural and biological values. Part of Conglomerate Mesa was also designated as an “Area of Critical Environmental Concern” in 2016, one of the highest conservation designations on BLM-managed lands, which further acknowledged its unique importance.
An open-pit mine would use a poisonous cyanide-leaching process and destroy thousands of acres of fragile desert. Because of prior exploration in the area, we know the mine would produce less than half an ounce of gold from each ton of rock — literally. Worse, the mine site would be under five miles from the western border of Death Valley National Park and visible from the Park, access roads, nearby wilderness areas and the high-elevation Sierra Nevada mountains, including Mount Whitney.
In addition to permanently destroying wilderness values and marring the high desert landscape, this exploratory drilling proposal would reduce scarce desert water resources, increase dust and air pollution, destroy fragile desert soils, and destroy habitats for rare plants and local wildlife species.
The low-grade gold ore at Conglomerate Mesa is only being considered for mining because the price of gold is rising and the federal government continues to allow mining projects such as this one to destroy vast areas of our public lands virtually for free.
The BLM needs to produce adequate environmental review for the exploratory drilling as well as any subsequent project proposals. These environmental reviews must address all the environmental impacts that will result from a gold mine in this area.
The natural values of Conglomerate Mesa require conservation, not industrialization.