Press release Friends of the Inyo and the Sierra Club

LONE PINE, CA — Conglomerate Mesa, a unique and valuable part of our Eastern Sierra public lands that lies adjacent to Death Valley National Park, remains under threat from the prospect of industrial-scale open pit cyanide heap leach mining.

Earlier this year, after much public pressure, Silver Standard Resources, Inc. abandoned an approved exploratory drilling project known as Perdito. However, Friends of the Inyo and the Sierra Club recently learned that the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) approved a transfer of the project to the holders of the mining claim.

This means that the claim holders can indefinitely pitch the project to other mining companies, leaving the future of Conglomerate Mesa in limbo.

“Our community should be alarmed that we simply don’t know if Conglomerate Mesa is truly protected. This landscape is still at risk.” said Jora Fogg, Policy Director, Friends of the Inyo. “We will remain diligent in our efforts to permanently protect the mesa from destructive mining and at the same time defend the conservation commitments the BLM has already made to this place.”

Earlier this year, Friends of the Inyo, based in Bishop, California, together with a coalition of local and national groups, filed a formal challenge asking the BLM State Director to review the approval of the Perdito Exploration Project. BLM’s State Office in Sacramento has now granted that request for review.

Friends of the Inyo and members of the coalition will meet with BLM Acting California Director Joe Stout in November to present the case for why these lands should be protected. The Director will make a decision to affirm, reverse or modify the approval of the project by mid January 2019.

Conglomerate Mesa is on the doorstep of Death Valley National Park and adjacent to the Inyo Mountains and Malpais Mesa Wilderness. Visitors to the mesa can hike, backpack, camp, go rock scrambling, hunt, bird watch, stargaze and view wildflowers.

The lands were recently designated and protected as part of the California Desert National Conservation Lands, America’s newest collection of protected public lands managed by the BLM.

“Claim holders are now one step closer to fulfilling their goal of an industrial-scale open pit cyanide leach mine, which would poison our water supply and endanger our wildlife.” said Fran Hunt, Eastern Sierra Organizer for the Sierra Club. “Our coalition remains united in stopping any effort to damage this culturally and ecologically important area.”

The mesa’s beautiful and rugged landscape is dotted with Joshua Trees and Pinyon and Juniper Trees. It provides habitat for rare plants like the Inyo rock daisy and is home to bobcats, Golden Eagles, Mule deer and mountain lions. The area has also long been important to local tribes and tribal members for traditional uses and is rich in historical resources, including the remains of charcoal kilns and stone masonry sites used in the late 1800’s to supply the Cerro Gordo mine.

All these features are at risk if an industrial-scale open pit cyanide leach mine moves forward. Indeed the approved exploration of the area would involve drilling to a depth of 1,000 feet, and would require operators to obtain water from an unspecified offsite location.

These activities would create dust and noise disturbance to visitors and wildlife, impact dark skies with bright 24/7 lights, and deplete scarce water sources. Local groups and the conservation community have been engaged in a campaign against industrial-scale mining on Conglomerate Mesa, and for the permanent protection of these special lands.

The community celebrated a victory this summer when — after pushback from local residents — Canada-based Silver Standards Resources withdrew their application to launch exploratory drilling on Conglomerate Mesa. However, fears have been reignited with the BLM transfer.

This action by BLM is extremely uncommon and leaves many questions unanswered about the future of Conglomerate Mesa. Photos of Conglomerate Mesa are available for use here.


About Friends of the Inyo: Founded in 1986, Friends of the Inyo’s mission is to protect and care for the public lands of the Eastern Sierra. They are a member of the Friends Grassroots Network, a connected network of 67 locally based organizations around the west working to advance strong conservation management policies and practices on BLM lands.

About the Sierra Club: The Sierra Club is America’s largest grassroots environmental organization, with more than 3.5 million members and supporters. In addition to helping people from all backgrounds explore nature and our outdoor heritage, the Sierra Club works to promote clean energy, safeguard the health of our communities, protect wildlife, and preserve our remaining wild places.

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