The Bureau of Land Management has formally paused a plan to drill for lithium near a desert oasis full of federally protected species, saying the project likely would disrupt the underground waters that feed the refuge.
In a letter rescinding the agency’s previous approval, the BLM said a plan from Canadian mining company Rover Metals to conduct exploratory drilling for lithium just outside of Ash Meadows National Wildlife Refuge was likely to disturb the region’s groundwaters and cause “significant impacts” to the endangered and threatened species that live inside the refuge.
“BLM cannot be certain without more information from the operator that it could engage in drilling at this site without causing unnecessary or undue degradation,” the agency wrote. The agency’s prior approval, the BLM wrote, “was in error.”
Rover Metals did not respond to requests for comment Thursday. The BLM’s decision comes after substantial pushback from conservationists and rural residents, including a lawsuit filed this month that sought to stop the drilling project before it could get underway.