Lithium mining proposed by a Canadian Company, Rover Metals, threatens Ash Meadows, an ecologically critical National Wildlife Refuge. We flew with the US Forest Service, conservation organizations, and the press to bring awareness to Rover Metal's project and to advocate for the protection of Ash Meadows and the species that call it home.
The Amargosa Basin represents a vast stretch of desert that creates vital habitat connectivity between Death Valley National Park and Mojave National Preserve. The centerpiece of the Amargosa Basin is the Amargosa River. From its headwaters north of Beatty, NV, the river flows largely underground and drains into Badwater Basin, the lowest point in the US. Twenty-eight miles of the river is designated a Wild and Scenic River, a rarity for an intermittent desert waterway. The Amargosa is one of the few perennial rivers in the region, and is fed by a deep, ancient carbonate aquifer. This makes it a reliable source of water in a parched and unpredictable landscape, but also a source that is not easily recharged and sensitive to overdraw.
The Amargosa Basin is home to important cultural and natural resources. The area contains historic footpaths of the Timbisha-Shoshone and Southern Paiute people, wagon routes of the Mormon Trail, old railroad beds, and mining roads, and today offers off-road recreation routes. In the extremely hot and dry habitat, the river supports a variety of plant and animal species. The basin hosts migrating birds and the natural springs provide habitat for rare and endemic species of plants and wildlife - including the endangered Amargosa vole, that occupies a range of only five square miles, making it the most endangered mammal in the country.
Mining poses serious threats to the river and the many endangered species that occupy Ash Meadows National Wildlife Refuge, one of the first RAMSAR Wetlands of International Importance
designated in the US. A Canadian mining company, Rover Metals, plans to conduct exploratory drilling on public lands on the doorstep of Ash Meadows. The company intends to drill up to 30 boreholes to a depth of 250-300 feet in order to obtain core samples for lithium prospecting. Rover Metals had planned to begin drilling over the summer, but the project faced robust opposition and raised serious concerns regarding potential impacts to groundwater and groundwater-dependent species in the refuge, especially the endangered species residing in the springs closest to the proposed drilling area. A coalition of partners including non-profit organizations, Tribal nations, local governments and concerned citizens banded together and put sufficient pressure on the BLM to revoke their approval of the project and require Rover Metals to conduct a thorough NEPA (National Environmental Policy Act) review before proceeding. Rover Metals plans to begin the NEPA process, keeping the threat of lithium mining very much alive.
EcoFlight's partners are working towards legislative protections to preserve the integrity of Ash Meadows and its many values from the threats of mining.
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