Peabody coal mine to reopen?
By Cyndy Cole, Arizona Daily Sun, MAY
Peabody Western Coal Company is taking
steps to possibly reopen Black Mesa Mine on the Hopi
The mine closed in 2005 when the power
plant it fed in Nevada shut down amid pollution violations,
putting about 150 people out of work and costing the
region close to $100 million in direct and indirect
The Office of Surface Mining is rewriting
some of the necessary plans to operate the mine, according
to a notice filed in the Federal Register on Friday.
But instead of using groundwater to
slurry coal more than 270 miles to a now-closed power
plant in Laughlin, Nev., the coal could possibly end
up at the Navajo Generating Station in Page.
The new plans link the Black Mesa Mine
to the Kayenta Mine, treating them as one.
And the Kayenta Mine feeds the Page
power plant about 8 million tons of coal per year.
"There is no new customer that
is being proposed by Peabody at this point," said
Al Klein, regional director of the Office of Surface
A spokeswoman for Black Mesa Mine did
not answer questions about long-term plans for Black
Mesa Mine on Friday.
She said mining there would remain "temporarily
The Sierra Club is opposed to the mine
"We need to be looking at reducing
coal rather than mining more of it, to reduce global
warming," said Andy Bessler, of the Sierra Club
office in Flagstaff.
NO PLANS TO TAP AQUIFER
Black Mesa Mine is located southwest
of Kayenta and once employed 155 union workers, plus
management, paying salaries of $50,000 to $80,000.
The Navajo and Hopi tribes, city governments,
charities and workers collected $86 million a year directly
in royalties, taxes, donations and paychecks from Peabody's
operations mining 5 million tons of coal a year there,
a Peabody spokeswoman said when the mine closed.
Plans to relocate Navajo families living
near the mine, to expand mining, and to tap the Coconino
Aquifer to transport coal met opposition from environmental
groups and some Navajo residents.
Seventeen households could be relocated
and small particulates, which aggravate health problems,
could be added to the air near the mine if mining continues
and expands, according to a 2007 environmental analysis.
OPERATING AROUND THE CLOCK
Norman Benally grew up next to what
is now the mine.
It has consumed one family home and
threatens to destroy others, if expanded.
He complained of noise and lights at
the mine that operated around the clock all year, producing
air pollution and burning trash.
"It was terrible. You always have
this sulfur smell," he said.
Since the mine shut down at the end
of 2005, he says the air is cleaner and he can see the
Though his home and the homes of family
members are located about one-quarter mile from the
mine, they never received permission to tie into water
or power lines, he said.
Benally is a reader, taking a particular
interest in business and economics.
Overall, he compares the Navajo Nation
to a Third World country, exporting its natural resources
to provide power for faraway customers, but never creating
lasting new jobs or improving life for residents.
"As long as our tribal council
is depending on these energy revenues," he said,
"there will be no economic development -- ever."
Cyndy Cole can be reached at 913-8607
or at email@example.com.