DECEMBER 18TH, 2023 — Despite strong public pushback following their attempt to conduct exploratory drilling operations near Ash Meadows National Wildlife Refuge in the summer of 2023, Canadian mining company Rover Metals has submitted a new plan of operations to the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) Pahrump Field Office.

Ash Meadows is part of the ancestral homelands of the Timbisha Shoshone and Southern Paiute Tribes, and remains a culturally and spiritually significant site. Located just outside of Death Valley National Park, Ash Meadows consists of 24,000 acres of springs, seeps, and wetlands in one of the hottest and driest deserts on Earth. Home to at least 26 endemic species that live nowhere else, Ash Meadows is a critically important biodiversity hotspot and a designated RAMSAR Wetland of International Importance under the United Nations.

A coalition which included the Timbisha Shoshone Tribe, over 22 nonprofit organizations, local governments, and concerned citizens led the fight against this project over the summer and raised the alarm regarding the significant threat drilling and mining activities pose to Ash Meadows. As a result of public pressure and litigation filed by our organization and the Center for Biological Diversity, the BLM rescinded their approval of Rover Metals initial project application on July 20th, 2023, requiring the company to submit a full Plan of Operations and for the National Environmental Policy Act review process to be conducted in order for the project to move forward.

Rover Metals’ new Plan of Operations would entail drilling 21 exploratory boreholes up to 150ft in depth within their exploration area on the northern boundary of Ash Meadows. 

A hydrological analysis was conducted last summer by Roux, Inc. to consider potential impacts to groundwater resources that could result from exploratory drilling in this area. This analysis indicated that drilling has the potential to impact groundwater flows that sustain significant springs in the northern portion of Ash Meadows. Rover Metals is proposing to drill within just a few thousand feet of Fairbanks Spring, one of the largest springs in the refuge and home to the endangered Ash Meadows amargosa pupfish and Ash Meadows speckled dace.

Endangered Ash Meadows amargosa pupfish (Cyprinodon nevadensis mionectes)

While exploratory drilling in this sensitive area presents its own risks, the biggest fear is that this project could lay a path toward the creation of an open-pit industrial mine on the doorstep of one of the most significant biodiversity hotspots in North America.

Rover Metals has already published images depicting where open-pit mining could potentially occur within their exploration area:

Images sourced from Rover Metals’ website

The Amargosa Conservancy and our partners are preparing to engage with this project at every stage of the environmental review process, and we will be counting on our members to help us raise a loud voice in support of the irreplaceable biodiversity and cultural values present in Ash Meadows that are too precious to risk by allowing Rover Metals project to proceed.

But we aren’t prepared to sit idly by while the future of Ash Meadows is at stake.

We are calling on the Department of the Interior and Congress to work together to enhance protections for Ash Meadows by withdrawing public lands bordering the refuge from mining.

In the past two months, officials from Amargosa Valley Town Board, Beatty Town Advisory Board, and Nye County Board of Commissioners have sent letters to senior leaders within the Department of the Interior and Congress to consider and pursue a mineral withdrawal for this sensitive area in light of the threat mining activities pose to groundwater-dependent ecosystems and communities in the Amargosa Desert.

This is where you come in. Please take a few moments to raise your voice on this important issue and sign our petition urging agency leaders and elected officials to act now and save Ash Meadows.

Raise your voice in support of a safe and secure future for Ash Meadows today. Sign our petition calling for mining to be withdrawn from lands bordering the refuge.

And please, consider donating to the Amargosa Conservancy today. Your donations provide us with the means to continue to lead in this fight through advocacy, litigation, and community organizing efforts.

 We can’t win this without you!

Fairbanks Spring, Ash Meadows National Wildlife Refuge; Mason Voehl

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