Conglomerate Mesa: Rare Fossils Threatened by Gold
K2 Gold is pursuing permits to for seven locations with helicopter access at Conglomerate Mesa in the Inyo Mountains. However, they have bigger ideas and bigger plans. They want to amend the plan of operations to drill at up to 30 more sites covering a greater area.
What makes Conglomerate Mesa so special? Well, it’s lovely out there; quiet, surrounded north and south by wilderness. It is covered in a sea of Joshua trees, and the Conglomerate Mesa may be their climate change refuge. There are 12 rare species there (click here to learn about the Botanical Wonders of Conglomerate Mesa). There are also neat things to find like charcoal pits that supplied charcoal for the Cerro Gordo mine, traces of the historic Keeler-Death Valley trail across the mesa. However, the best part for me is the geology and geomorphology; the classic outline of the mesa formed by hard, resistant conglomerate beds.
Conglomerate Mesa is the key, the “Rosetta Stone”, for unraveling the evolution of the ancient coastline of the southwestern U.S. from the Permian through the early Triassic (300 to 247 million years ago). The mesa consists of a sequence of strata that represent a complete geologic record during this time. The Early Permian strata at Conglomerate Mesa are particularly important because they are not duplicated anywhere else. There are fossil beds in this sequence that can be dated by the unique fossils within them: fusulinids (plankton with calcite shells), conodonts (ancient eels), and corals. Three new genera and 12 new species of the fusulinids are endemic to the Conglomerate Mesa area—found nowhere else. None of the fusulinids survived the Permian Extinction, so these are the only beds that contain them.
How can we let something that unique, found nowhere else in the world, become an open pit mine? Reclamation won’t bring back the classic mesa outline or the unique strata. Help us protect it. For more information about Conglomerate Mesa and what you can do to help, click here.
Exploratory Drilling To Start Soon In the Bodie Hills
There were 3 requests by foreign gold mining companies to do exploratory drilling in the Bodie Hills each in a different stage of planning: two at Bald Peak (CA side, NV side) and one at Spring Peak. The Bald Peak CA project was recently withdrawn. An Environmental Assessment is being developed for the Bald Peak NV project. The Spring Peak project could start any time.
Spring Peak is in the southeast corner of the Bodie Hills on the south slope of Aurora Peak in the Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest in Nevada. A wildfire swept through the Spring Peak area in 2013, but restoration work was done in 2015. After two wet winters, the area is recovering well. The springs and seeps returned as well as vegetation. With the vegetation came wildlife: pronghorn, mule deer, wild horses, badger, coyote, ground squirrels, lizards, snakes, birds, butterflies, beetles and Bi-State Sage Grouse. The sage grouse use a meadow that lies between a known lek site and the drilling area. Some sage grouse are using another area as close as 50 feet from the road leading to the drilling area and only yards from one of the drill sites.
Even though the Bi-State Sage Grouse are in the Spring Peak drilling area and this species’ population numbers are low, little can be done to keep exploratory drilling out of Spring Peak except to prevent drilling during the lekking and brooding season. The 1872 mining law trumps all environmental laws. All the hard work to help the sage grouse: switching to tear-down fencing, flagging fencing, removing Pinyons, counting sage grouse, putting trackers on them, monitoring them, restoring their habitat after wildfires, etc. is undone by mining companies that operate in sage grouse habitat. The 1872 mining law must be changed to protect our public lands and our natural resources. Bill H.R. 2579 is stuck in the House Natural Resources Committee: https://naturalresources.house.gov/media/press-releases/chair-grijalva-sen-udall-introduce-hardrock-mining-reform-legislation-to-modernize-mining-royalties-address-taxpayer-funded-mine-cleanups. Ask your congressman to support it and get it moving forward!