'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 Mine.

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."

Peabody sought the life-of-mine permit to give the company more "flexibility" in its coal mining operation, according to company spokeswoman Beth Sutton.


Reprinted as an historical reference document under the Fair Use doctrine of international copyright law. http://www4.law.cornell.edu/uscode/17/107.html