Navajo-Hopi Nations,Flagstaff & Winslow News
Fri, June 05

Letter: Black Mesa Trust: ‘Let us do something’

Instead of crying about what we are to do to heat the kivas and homes now that Peabody Coal Mine Co. has shut down, let’s start doing something.

Peabody had become a company store that owns our soul. Our political leaders have been brainwashed into believing that we cannot survive without coal mining.

Our ancestors settled in this region thousands of years ago. They survived. We, the descendants, can do likewise, but it has to be done on our terms. Peabody has devastated our ancestral home. Unknown number of villages built by our ancestors were destroyed, along with unknown number of burial grave sites and rock writings.

Now, Peabody is getting ready to walk, leaving us with a train wreck. I suspect the regulatory agency, the U.S. Office of Surface Mining (OSM) will let them walk. From my 25 years of fighting Peabody and OSM, I know OSM treats Peabody like a special customer.

As for heating our kivas and homes, let us hire a workforce, using federal monies to cut dead trees on our land and deliver it to our villages. We can contract with the U.S. Forest Service to thin the deadwood.

We can immediately levy a possessory tax on the Peabody leasehold on Black Mesa Mine (BMM), which lies on Hopi Partitioned Lands. According to the 2002 Peabody Report, over 60 million tons of economically mineable coals underlies BMM. Peabody pays nothing for possessing the coal. Imagine, if only 5% possessory tax is levied on the market value of coal, the amount of revenue the Hopi Tribe will get, at least until the coal lease expires in 2024 will be significant.

Black Mesa Trust, a Hopi environmental protection, non-profit organization, has been proposing projects to bring in operating funds for years knowing that the mining cannot go on forever. About five (5) years [ago] we predicted that the Navajo Generating Station and Peabody Coal mining will shut down. Our warning fell on deaf ears. So, here we are, crying shamelessly, “What are we going to do?” We are not helpless, let us do something.

Vernon Masayesva

Kykotsmovi, Arizona

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