Peabody to combine mines, upsetting tribes
by Kelsey Volkmann, St. Louis Business
Journal, DECEMBER 23, 2008
Despite activists’ and tribal objections,
the federal agency that regulates surface mining approved
a permit revision that combines the coal reserves and
facilities of Peabody Energy’s two Arizona coal mines.
The permit, approved Monday by the U.S.
Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement,
covers Peabody’s Kayenta Mine and now-closed Black Mesa
The permit runs through 2026, and the
possibility of more mining at the site has tribes threatening
to file a lawsuit.
“We are looking into our options for
how to stop this process from moving forward, including
legal action,” Enei Begaye, co-director of the Black
Mesa Water Coalition, a Navajo and Hopi group, said
in a statement. "The permitting process was flawed
and clearly rushed through before President Bush leaves
Approval of the permit increases the
reclamation performance bond for the Black Mesa complex
from $89 million to nearly $250 million, the agency
said. The expanded permit area will now largely coincide
with the lease boundary and coal reserves that the Navajo
Nation and Hopi Tribe leased to Peabody.
Environmentalists had fought against
the revised permit, arguing they weren't given ample
time to comment. They also raised concerns about cultural
and spiritual aspects of mining there because it’s Native
American land. Sierra Club members and other activists
argued against Peabody's use of a Navajo aquifer water
they blamed for causing sacred springs to dry up.
"Black Mesa is a female mountain,
sacred to the Navajo people, and has been brutally scarred
from over 30 years of coal mining activity and the resulting
loss of 60 percent of our only source of drinking water,"
said Wahleah Johns, co-director of the Black Mesa Water
Coalition. "Our ancestors fought hard to retain
our homelands, but even now in 2008 we are up against
the same battle to protect our homelands. The abuse
to mother earth needs to stop."
About 40 Navajo and Hopi leaders were
in Denver earlier this month petitioning federal regulators
to offer more environmental and other protections if
Peabody reopens the mine. On Tuesday, they threatened
to sue Peabody.
The now-shuttered Black Mesa mine and
adjacent Kayenta mine have provided revenue and jobs
to the Hopi and Navajo tribes for decades. Peabody officials
said the company invested more than $2.8 billion in
economic benefits, royalties, taxes, wages and donations
to the tribes over the years, including a $22 million
Peabody has provided almost $7 million
in scholarships for Navajo and Hopi children pursuing
college and careers, including a $356,000 donation earlier
The Kayenta Mine supplies 8.5 million
tons of coal per year to the Navajo Generating Station
in Page, Ariz.
St. Louis-based Peabody Energy (NYSE:
BTU) is the world’s largest private-sector coal company.
Its coal products fuel approximately 10 percent of all
U.S. electricity generation. Peabody reported $4.6 billion
in 2007 revenue.