Center for Biological Diversity

For Immediate Release, July 20, 2023


Patrick Donnelly, Center for Biological Diversity, (702) 483-0449,
Mason Voehl, Amargosa Conservancy, (702) 900-7589,

BLM Halts Drilling Near Nevada’s Ash Meadows National Wildlife Refuge

LAS VEGAS, Nev.— The Bureau of Land Management has officially withdrawn its authorization of a proposed lithium mining exploration project at the edge of Ash Meadows National Wildlife Refuge in southern Nevada.

“We’re immensely relieved that our lawsuit and overwhelming public opposition compelled federal officials to slam the brakes on this project just days before drilling was supposed to start,” said Patrick Donnelly, Great Basin director at the Center for Biological Diversity. “We need lithium for our renewable energy transition, but this episode sends a message loud and clear that some places are just too special to drill.”

The Canadian mining company, Rover Metals, planned to drill 30 bore holes into the groundwater table on public lands just 2,000 feet from the refuge, a proposal fiercely opposed by local community members. In response, the Center and the Amargosa Conservancy filed a lawsuit against BLM challenging its approval of the project.

“This is a remarkable victory for our community here in the Amargosa Basin,” said Mason Voehl, executive director of the Amargosa Conservancy. “The message from our members and neighbors was loud and clear. Mining doesn’t belong near our beloved Ash Meadows National Wildlife Refuge.”

Ash Meadows is a lush oasis in the Mojave Desert where dozens of springs form expansive wetlands. The wildlife refuge harbors 25 species of fish, plants, insects and snails that are found nowhere else on Earth, giving it one of the highest concentrations of endemic species in North America. Twelve of these species, including the pupfish, are protected under the Endangered Species Act. The United Nations has designated the refuge a RAMSAR Wetland of International Importance.

Officials from the nearby town of Beatty sent a letter to the BLM ago urging the agency to require an environmental review for the project. That same message was echoed in a letter the Amargosa Conservancy and local communities addressed to the BLM. The conservancy also submitted a petition to Interior Secretary Deb Haaland and BLM Director Tracy Stone-Manning with more than 1,200 signatures opposing the project.

The Bureau withdrew its authorization of Rover’s drilling project in two letters issued late Wednesday, two days after the plaintiffs moved for preliminary injunction to stop drilling.

In the letters, the Bureau affirmed the arguments made in the lawsuit, stating, “the agency has concluded that proposed operations are likely to result in disturbance to localized groundwaters that supply the connected surface waters associated with Threatened and Endangered (T&E) species in local springs in the Ash Meadows National Wildlife Refuge…”

“Conservationists have been working to save Ash Meadows for more than 50 years,” said Donnelly. “Our advice to Rover Metals is don’t let the door hit you on your way out. We'll be watching and we won't ever give up our fight to save Ash Meadows.”

Conservation advocates are represented by Roger Flynn of the Western Mining Action Project and the Center's attorneys.

RSAsh Meadows Amargosa Pupfish FWS-scr
The federally endangered Ash Meadows Amargosa pupfish. Photo courtesy US Fish and Wildlife Service. Image is available for media use.

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1.7 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

The Amargosa Conservancy is a Nevada and California nonprofit organization dedicated to working towards a sustainable future for the Amargosa Basin through science, stewardship and advocacy.

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