Is Peabody hiding their true intentions for coal mining from Navajo and Hopi tribes?

May 25, 2007

To the Navajo-Hopi Observer:

It is becoming evident that the C-aquifer Project was just a smokescreen to expedite the approval of Peabody's plan for the Black Mesa and Kayenta Mines.

The proponents of the C-aquifer Project assured us that the C-aquifer would replace N-aquifer as the primary source of water for the Black Mesa coal slurry operation, which transported coal from Black Mesa Mine to the Mohave Generating Station in Laughlin, Nev. That was a smokescreen. No one really expected the C-aquifer project to be built in time to restart the coal slurry in 2010.

Now that Mohave Generating Station has shut down permanently as a coal-fired power plant, the coal slurry project is dead.

As expected, Peabody is unveiling the next scenario for mining. My suspicion is that Peabody will form a partnership with the Hopi and Navajo Tribes.

This suspicion is verified by a headline in the Arizona Daily Sun, "Black Mesa coal mine set to reopen" (May 24, 2007). In the article Scott Canty, a lawyer for the Hopi Tribe, is quoted as saying, "There's a number of options we're exploring," with "we" meaning Hopi, Navajo, and Peabody, and possibly owners of the Navajo Generating Station.

If some type of partnership is in the making, it should be done transparently, out in the open before opponents tear it apart.

Black Mesa Trust is not opposed to coal mining, but we have said publicly that future mining on Black Mesa must be done according to a new paradigm. More of the same is not acceptable.

In an article on "Crossroads," I predicted that a rail line will be built, financed by owners of Mohave Generating Station and Peabody and heavily subsidized by the federal government. The reason is obvious. There is an increasing demand for energy, and owners want to take advantage of the lucrative possibilities that engenders. They realize now that any future energy development on Indian land must involve tribes as investors or majority owners.

But before Peabody can file a revision to its pending Black Mesa Project application, they have to secure a permanent license to mine under the current Environmental Impact Statement (Black Mesa Project EIS - Alternative A).

The Office of Surface Mining was hoping to formally approve Black Mesa Project Alternative A this summer. If this happens, Peabody will finally get its life-of-mine permit for the coal mines on Black Mesa. This will create a secure coal supply, which is a top priority for Peabody and owners of Navajo Generating Station.

But the question now is, "Will OSM continue to move toward a decision (Record of Decision) on the EIS when the coal slurry is out of the picture and when the Hopi government is in the midst of a growing political crisis?"

Vernon Masayesva

Kykotsmovi

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