SUWA’s Appeal Stymies Lithium Mining Project Near Canyonlands National Park, Dead Horse Point State Park
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Landon Newell, Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance, 801.428.3991, firstname.lastname@example.org
Hanna Larsen, Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance, 801.428.3992, email@example.com
Salt Lake City, UT (April 19, 2023): Last week, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) announced it has withdrawn its approval of a controversial lithium mining project located near the entrance to Canyonlands National Park and Dead Horse Point State Park. The BLM’s Moab field office had approved the A-1 Lithium Incorporated Mineral Exploration Project last September, and specifically the drilling of two lithium wells on the public lands directly off State Route 313, which is designated as the Dead Horse Mesa Scenic Byway. State Route 313 is the main access road to both Dead Horse Point State Park and the Island in the Sky unit of Canyonlands National Park. The wells would have been visible from both parks and the scenic byway. Approximately 120 people commented on this controversial project. SUWA appealed the local BLM manager’s approval to the Utah BLM state director.
“This is not an appropriate location for lithium development,” said Landon Newell, staff attorney with the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance. “Lithium is an essential resource in the transition to a greener energy future, but its extraction shouldn’t come at the expense of visually scarring magnificent scenic landscapes. Industry does not get a free pass to muck about on our public lands.”
SUWA argued that the BLM had failed to analyze a reasonable range of alternatives to the proposed development and failed to consider, analyze, and disclose the impacts to water quantity in this arid redrock landscape—impacts made worse by a decades-long drought and ongoing climate crisis. In her decision, the acting state director agreed, reversed the BLM’s drilling approval, and ordered the agency to “complete additional [National Environmental Policy Act] analysis . . . regarding a reasonable range of alternatives and to complete additional analysis regarding the cumulative impacts to water quantity.”
The acting state director’s decision grants a reprieve to one of Utah’s most popular and scenic landscapes. The more than a million visitors per year who travel the Dead Horse Mesa Scenic Byway come to appreciate and observe this remarkable redrock landscape, not to see and hear the sights and sounds of industrial development. “The climate crisis is wreaking havoc on the Colorado Plateau, which is the hottest and driest region in the United States and is experiencing higher rates of warming than other regions in the country,” said Hanna Larsen, staff attorney with the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance. “Lithium mining—like all forms of extractive mineral development—consumes enormous quantities of water. The BLM can’t ignore this fact, especially in light of the ongoing drought which will only worsen due to the rapidly changing climate. The state director rightly recognized that this remarkable landscape demands a more thorough accounting of the potential impacts of lithium mining, especially when it comes to water.”
A1 Lithium, the company behind the now withdrawn drilling proposal, is the American subsidiary of the Australian company Anson Resources. In the past few years, A1 Lithium has staked more than a thousand lithium claims in southeastern Utah. These claims encompass thousands of acres of sensitive public lands, including lands immediately adjacent to Dead Horse Point State Park and within the popular Goldbar Canyon and Labyrinth Canyon proposed wilderness areas. The BLM’s withdrawal of its approval of this project will allow the agency time to take a “smart-from-the-start” approach to evaluating future lithium mining proposals in this region and to fully consider the environmental impacts of such development.