Navajo-Hopi Nations,Flagstaff & Winslow News
Thu, Oct. 29

Navajo Transitional Energy Co. wins 2020 Excellence in Surface Coal Mining Reclamation award

WASHINGTON — Navajo Transitional Energy Company, North American Coal Company, Bisti Fuels Navajo Mine received a national award by the Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement.

The Excellence in Surface Coal Mining Reclamation Awards are presented to the coal mining companies that achieve the most exemplary coal mine reclamation in the nation. Past winners have demonstrated a commitment to sound mining practices and effective reclamation plans that enhanced the post-mining use of the land.

“OSM is proud to recognize operators who exemplify what it means to balance coal mining and environmental protection,” said OSM Principal Deputy Director Lanny E. Erdos. “Congratulations to these deserving winners and thank you on behalf of OSM for your commitment to the American people.”

The awards program, established in 1986, is designed to encourage citizen and private sector involvement in the care of America’s resources, to recognize outstanding reclamation achieved by companies under the Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act (SMCRA), to capture and infuse in others a spirit of commitment to restoring the land after it is mined for coal, and provide a catalyst for the transfer of new or innovative technology for wider use.

The winning projects went beyond the reclamation requirements of SMCRA to achieve superior results in returning a site to productive use after completion of mining. A team of judges reviewed the nominations and voted on projects based on the following criteria:

• Difficulty of achieving reclamation under existing conditions

• Effectiveness of the on-site work

• Extent to which project exceeds the spirit and intent of SMCRA

• Increased public awareness of SMCRA

• Long-term benefit to the community

• Transferability of the on-site practice to other reclamation projects

This Navajo-owned mine held several areas that were already reclaimed to the most current reclamation techniques available when they were finished, going back more than 35 years. However, the reclamation would not support the use that tribal members envisioned; that of raising livestock, and as a watershed.

At a cost of nearly $14 million, the operator reconfigured the reclamation using a more current technique. The effort required a big investment in time, money and effort; the operator had to find and move more than eight million cubic yards of material to fill a previously reclaimed mine pit. It then used geomorphic reclamation on a second site to restore two watersheds, improve sedimentation control, and reintroduce historic drainages that were cut off since 1980.

In both areas, while the previous reclamation had been approved, the mine operator determined the reclamation techniques used previously were not conducive to the desired land use, nor to the environment. The judges cited this effort for going well beyond the requirements, spirit, and intent of the Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act.

This same mine operator won the 2019 Good Neighbor Award for supporting a post-secondary education program, developing STEM career events at local schools, creating teacher workshops, funding internship and scholarship programs, and working with academia to create a new species of plant that adapts to harsh New Mexican deserts for reclamation purposes.

The Excellence in Surface Coal Mining Reclamation Awards are presented in partnership with the National Mining Association. This year’s awards will be presented in a virtual ceremony via YouTube and Facebook from Washington, D.C. Oct. 15.

Information provided by the Department of the Interior

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