WINDOW ROCK, Ariz. - The Navajo Nation will spend another $2.3 million to look into whether buying the Navajo Mine coal mine would be economically beneficial and keep Navajos employed.
Navajo Nation President Ben Shelly signed legislation April 3 allowing money from the Undesignated Unreserved Fund Balance to pay for continuation of a due diligence investigation.
"We are in times unlike any other with federal budget cuts, reduced revenue and taxes. We must consider investments that could help sustain critical programs that help our people," Shelly said. "The due diligence investigation will help us learn all we need to know to make an informed decision about acquiring Navajo Mine."
Navajo Mine is the sole provider of coal to Four Corners Power Plant, which Arizona Public Service (APS) owns. APS officials estimate that Four Corners Power Plant would need about six million to eight million tons of coal per year to continue to operate beyond 2016. Last year, Navajo Mine supplied about 8.1 million tons of coal to Four Corners Power Plant, which generated more than $40 million for the Navajo Nation.
The Navajo Nation hasn't decided to buy Navajo Mine yet.
"At this point, I need to know more information about the entire operation of the mine," Shelly said. "I also want to know how are we going to pay for the mine, if we decide we want to buy it. And, I want us to think far into the future and consider other technologies for clean coal. We need to look ahead and see how we can make use of our resources."
The Navajo Nation began considering buying Navajo Mine after Four Corners Power Plant and Navajo Mine owners could not agree upon a coal price.
Shelly said protecting the jobs of about 800 Navajo people who work at the mine and power plant is a priority.
"If acquiring Navajo Mine can protect those existing jobs, it is my duty as president to ensure that we at least consider the proposal," he said. "We have to protect jobs."
If the Navajo Nation acquired the mine by June 2013, the current owner, BHP Billiton, would continue to manage the mine until 2016.
The Navajo Nation would buy all shares of BHP Navajo Coal Company, then merge the coal company with a Navajo company yet to be determined. The Navajo owned company would receive all equipment, improvements, workforce, tangible and intangible intellectual property rights and permits.