'We were denied'
Groups appeal U.S. decision to meld Black Mesa Mine
with Kayenta mine permit
By Cindy Yurth, Tséyi' Bureau,
Navajo Times, JANUARY 29, 2009
CHINLE - A coalition of tribal and environmental groups
Jan. 22 filed an appeal seeking to reverse the U.S.
Office of Surface Mining's recent decision to incorporate
the idle Black Mesa Coal Mine into Peabody' Western
Coal Co.'s existing life-of-mine permit for its Kayenta
Citing the impacts as diverse as the
spiritual desecration of the mesa, ground water depletion
and the eventual contribution to global warming caused
by burning the estimated 670 million tons of coal left
in Black Mesa, the coalition is asking the U.S. Interior
Department to reconsider its Dec. 22 decision.
The appeal was filed with Interior's
Office of Hearings and Appeals by the Energy Minerals
Law Center in Durango, Colo.
Groups represented in the appeal include
Black Mesa Water Coalition, To Nizhóní,
Diné CARE, Diné Hataali Association Inc.,
Diné Alliance, C-Aquifer for Diné, Natural
Resources Defense Council, the Center for Biological
Diversity, and the Sierra Club's Grand Canyon Chapter.
"As Navajo and Hopi community members,
we were denied an extension of the commenting period,
we were denied informal conference meetings, we were
even denied the ability to see Peabody's revised permit
application," said Enei Begaye, Black Mesa Water
Coalition director, in a press release from the coalition.
"This process has only valued corporate
interests rather [than] those who would be most impacted
by this mining operation," she said.
"We are working in partnership
with tribal members and those concerned with global
warming, who want to see green jobs, not a black hole
in Black Mesa," said Andy Bessler of the Sierra
Club. "This appeal really is a chance for the Obama
administration to listen to grassroots concerns and
help build a green economy based on a clean energy future."
The Black Mesa Mine shut down in late
2005 when its sole customer, the Mohave Generating Station,
was fored to close after its owners failed to retrofit
the plant with smokestack scrubbers as required by a
federal court order.
Federal law, specifically the Indian
Minerals Leasing Act of 1938, says the leases can [continue]
indefinitely, but only so long as minerals are produced
in paying quantities.
By linking the leases with active production,
the law prevents a company from sitting on a tribe's
coal reserves but not producing revenue from them -
as has happened since the Black Mesa Mine shutdown.
By combining the Black Mesa acreage
with Kayenta, which is still active, Peabody is able
to skirt eviction and prevent another coal company from
coming in, as noted by an official with the Navajo Division
of Natural Resources, who said anyone with a proposal
to reopen the Black Mesa Mine would have to go through
Peabody sought the life-of-mine permit
to give the company more "flexibility" in
its coal mining operation,
according to company spokeswoman Beth Sutton.