VICTORY! Mining company indefinitely suspends drilling on California’s Conglomerate Mesa

21st of Mar 2022

Canadian mining company K2 Gold recently announced that it is suspending its controversial gold drilling project on California’s Conglomerate Mesa. For years, Advocates for the West has worked with our partners at Friends of the Inyo, Conservation Lands Foundation, and other groups to protect these biodiverse and culturally significant public lands — located on the doorstep of Death Valley National Park and beloved for hiking, camping, hunting, birdwatching, wildflower viewing, and stargazing.

K2 Gold sought unreviewed and unexamined use of these public lands, and was unwilling to undertake the studies needed to fully explore the scope of environmental damage the company’s drilling would cause.

“The vibrant and delicate ecosystem of Conglomerate Mesa is the big winner today,” said Wendy Schneider, Executive Director of Friends of the Inyo. “The bobcats, deer, lizards, Townsend Big Eared bats, Joshua Trees and Inyo Rock Daisies, all of the precious animals, plants and microorganisms that make their home there are safe for now. We celebrate this temporary victory today but move forward in our ongoing work to prevent future mining companies from coming to the Mesa.”

“Conglomerate Mesa will always be a sacred space to the Indigenous people of this area,” said Kathy Bancroft, Tribal Historic Preservation Officer of the Lone Pine Paiute Shoshone Tribe. “I hope any future mining companies who pursue this project understand that we will always protect and care for these lands. The first stewards of this land will never allow a gold mine at Conglomerate Mesa.”

“The Inyo rock daisy and the other plants of Conglomerate Mesa are breathing a sigh of relief,” said Maria Jesus, botanist with the California Botanic Garden. “I am grateful to all those who helped us show the BLM that Conglomerate Mesa is such a vital habitat for plants that it warranted the highest level of environmental analysis. Conglomerate Mesa is their home and this special habitat cannot be replaced once it’s destroyed.”


Conglomerate Mesa comprises the ancestral lands and traditional territories of the Timbisha Shoshone and Paiute Shoshone Tribes. Conglomerate Mesa is used by Tribes native to Payahuunadü, commonly known as the Owens Valley, and those in Death Valley/Timbisha for traditional cultural uses, including hunting and pinyon nut gathering.

Conglomerate Mesa boasts unique geological features such as fossils that help date the western coastline of the United States. It’s also home to sensitive plant species, including the Inyo rock daisy (which is only found in the Conglomerate Mesa area and was recently proposed for listing under the Endangered Species Act), the Badger Flat threadplant, and mature and juvenile Joshua trees.

On March 9, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) provided notice to K2 Gold that an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) is required before the drilling project could move forward. An EIS is a comprehensive document that assesses the impacts that a federal action (such as mining, drilling, or other development) would have on the surrounding environment. Based on the letter sent to K2 Gold by BLM, the agency recognized the importance of Tribal concerns about the project and the significance of the biological resources on Conglomerate Mesa.

At Issue

Conglomerate Mesa is designated as California Desert National Conservation Lands and an Area of Critical Environmental Concern for the region’s biodiversity, cultural significance, and recreation opportunities. Tribal nations, local and federal officials, conservation groups, business owners, and local residents have long opposed drilling operations on Conglomerate Mesa. California Senator Dianne Feinstein recently expressed opposition to K2 Gold’s project.

The news that K2 Gold is suspending drilling operations is a victory for efforts to protect the region’s cultural resources and traditional cultural use sites, scarce water supplies, wildlife and plants, and recreation opportunities. However, advocates also note that K2 Gold is just the latest in a series of large companies to threaten Conglomerate Mesa and be turned away by robust local opposition.

Permanent protection of these public lands is an important next step in the effort to ensure Conglomerate Mesa and the surrounding Joshua tree-studded lands are here for generations to come.

Interested in learning more about our work to protect Special Places in the West? Click here.