I have the privilege of living in the Eastern Sierra. I look out my window and drink in the vistas, the clean air, mountains, desert, hawks, ravens and coyote. I drink in the dark night skies that afford me a view of stars, planets, the moon and the Milky Way. As many of us in the Eastern Sierra, I feel a call to steward this land and sky that we call home. The indigenous people of Payahuunadu, the Eastern Sierra, have stewarded this land well before us and still do. I sit in reverence, and it’s from reverence for this earth and this special place on this planet that I write this letter. The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) gave approval to K2 Gold, an international mining company headquartered in Canada, to explore for gold in Conglomerate Mesa. Conglomerate Mesa is a beautiful, roadless wild land home to our precious desert species and just two miles from Death Valley National Park. K2 Gold has already begun to desecrate this land, scarring Conglomerate Mesa with trenches and littering the ground with flagging and spray paint. If not stopped, K2 Gold will soon plow a road into Conglomerate Mesa and drill 30 additional exploration holes, permanently scarring the land and destroying irreplaceable cultural and historical resources on the mesa.

If the exploration yields promising results, they plan to mine using an industrial-scale open-pit cyanide leach process. Yes, this is just as bad as it sounds! Cyanide, of course, is poisonous, and this process creates 20 tons of waste just to recover the amount of gold found in a typical gold ring! This type of mining is notorious for damaging, desecrating and destroying plants, animals, water and air, not to mention the total annihilation of the view-scape. Experience with this process has led many countries (as well as Montana and Wisconsin) to ban cyanidation. Furthermore, there is not enough water available at Conglomerate Mesa to implement these operations. Wherever they may find to source their water, it will be trucked in and fed into the Mesa through miles of hose laid across the land. What begins at 9,000 gallons a day for exploration will turn into billions of gallons each operating year for an open-pit heap-leach mine. Water is precious in the desert. What a waste! Indigenous people have reminded us that water is life. The proposed project is within the homelands of the Timbisha Shoshone and Paiute Shoshone Tribes. Why enable a project that has such a clear logistical impossibility as access to water?

Inyo County residents are opposed to this project and have voiced their opposition loud and clear, including at the Board of Supervisors meeting when the project was discussed. During the BLM’s public comment period in Fall of 2019, the public overwhelmingly expressed grave concerns about the project. K2 Gold has no interest in helping our local communities. They will exploit Conglomerate Mesa for their profits and leave us with severely damaged and desecrated public lands. Let us join together to steward this precious desert of ours by standing up for preservation over profit for foreign companies.

With best regards,

Betsy McDonald

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