Letter to the editor: Retrired federal mine inspector says information environmentalist provide to tribal leadership is wrong

To the editor:

I want to start by setting the record straight. I am a retired miner as well as a retired federal mine inspector. Before I retired, I was recognized as the first and only Navajo female federal inspector. I just have to say something about NGS and Kayenta mine, which I know very well. The information the environmentalist have been providing the tribal leadership is just incorrect.

Let me begin with the reclamation and closing cost and liabilities.

All disturbed land by federal law is required to be cleaned ujp and put to its original state. All companies are required to place funds into an escrow account to cover all reclamation and closing costs. Before I retired, that fund on average was tens of millions of dollars for each site. Both the NGS power plant and Kayenta mine are required by federal law to set those funds aside for all reclamation and closing costs.

The statement that the reclamation liability will fall on the Navajo Nation is just plain false. In fact, when NTEC (Navajo Transitional Energy Co.) makes the purchase they will take control of those escrow accounts. They will then continue to place funds into that same escrow account to cover those future costs.

NTEC currently does that at Navajo mine, which is how they do reclamation and cover those future closing costs. The power plant puts the same amount of funds aside to do the same. These are federal laws that every company, including tribal entities, must abide by.

Next, both the NGS power plant and Kayenta mine obtain water to run their operation. The Navajo and Hopi tribe agreed to this decades ago. The companies are given these water certificates, or allocations, by the state and federal agencies.

For the power plant, it comes from the state of Arizona. For the Kayenta mine, it comes from DOI (Department of the Interior) Office of Surface Mining.

Again, once NTEC makes the purchase of those water certificates, water allocations transfer over to NTEC, which means it is in the hands of the Navajo Nation. This includes all the infrastructure that moves the water.

The Navajo Nation wins just by doing the purchase. No law suits or courts. Because, again, the law requires they be transferred over to the operator of the plant and mine.

I am a proud Navajo woman. I raised my family from coal mining and helped my parents/siblings as well. There are some smart, hardworking Navajo workers who work in the industry. It’s sad what the environmentalists say and spread. I cannot just sit by and let all the false stories continue. Hard working Navajo families and their livelihoods are at stake. I need to set the record straight for the new leaders that are coming into office.

Our leaders need to ask lots of questions from the experts that know mining and power generation. Ask about the laws that are in place. Don’t just listen to jinni without facts.

Ruth Williams, Navajo

Shiprock, New Mexico

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