Letter: Reclamation must begin in Black Mesa

To the editor:

I am writing to inform the public Peabody is operating in the pursuit of profit at the expense of people's lives, livestock, wildlife and the environment. Peabody is giving money to the Navajo Nation Council (NNC) prior to getting an approval on the Black Mesa and Kayenta mine lease re-opened. Too many of our people have suffered.

A higher royalty rate is not enough. Peabody Coal Company promised Black Mesa residents a lot of things but they are only empty declarations. The NNC must hold a hearing in Black Mesa and allow directly affected residents a seat at the negotiating table. Ever since the mine started we have been living without electricity and running water. Water sources have been capped off, surface and groundwater supplies depleted, washes contaminated from arsenic and other heavy metals. The humans and the animals in Big Mountain and Black Mesa do not have any safe drinking water and are forced to travel long distances or drink water we suspect is contaminated.

The lease re-opener has a fatal flaw. The NNC cannot grant to Peabody under a lease-re-opener when a federal judge vacated the Black Mesa permit and the mine closed five years go when the Mohave Generating Station was shut down.

The pending U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) water discharge for Peabody Coal Company's Black Mesa and Kayenta mine has a fatal flaw. The U.S. EPA cannot issue a water discharge permit for the Black Mesa mine when there is no Black Mesa mine. The Black Mesa and Kayenta mines cannot be joined in a permit.

It is time reclamation begins in Black Mesa to replenish water depleted from the Navajo Aquifer and surface and groundwater sources from coal slurry pipeline line operations. It is time; the slurry line and related infrastructure is dismantled and Peabody takes down signs for the Black Mesa mine.

Peabody must be held accountable for trademarks left behind, a legacy of corporate crimes against the indigenous people of Black Mesa. Peabody's collusion with the U.S. government has resulted in a dark infamy of relocation and crimes against my people and the environment - relocation, the Bennett Freeze, uranium mining, Desert Rock - all in the pursuit of energy resource development fueled by corporate and governmental greed and collusion.

Leonard Benally

Black Mesa, Ariz.

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