Details in Navajo Please; Public Meetings Coming up on Navajo Mine

Alysa Landry
4/24/14

Got questions or comments about the Four Corners Power Plant and Navajo Mine Energy Project?

The U.S. Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement’s Western Region is hosting nine public meetings to address environmental impacts of the power plant and mine complex. The meetings, which kick off Wednesday, April 30, come four months after the Navajo Nation Council approved the $85 million purchase of the mine.

The decades-old mine, located south of Farmington, New Mexico, contains coal reserves to last for the next century, but opponents claim health and environmental costs outweigh economic benefits.

The Office of Surface Mining, or OSM, in late March released a lengthy draft environmental impact statement that evaluates continued operation of the mine and analyzes five possible courses of action. The statement was prepared over a period of several years, with cooperation from the Navajo and Hopi tribes, the Bureau of Indian Affairs, the Bureau of Land Management, the National Park Service, the Environmental Protection Agency, the Fish and Wildlife Service and the Army Corps of Engineers.

During the upcoming public meetings, held in Arizona, Colorado and New Mexico, the OSM will answer questions and collect feedback. The office will accept written comments until May 27.

Diné Citizens Against Ruining Our Environment, or Diné CARE, is encouraging all Navajo citizens to attend a meeting. The grassroots group vocally opposed the tribe’s purchase of the mine, claiming the council acted too quickly and failed to wait for the OSM to release its impact statement.

“We were trying to say wait to purchase the mine until this document came out,” said Colleen Cooley, Diné CARE’s Four Corners energy outreach organizer. “We were saying they should have waited and assessed what the potential impacts might have been. Instead, they rushed into it.”

Diné CARE hosted a rally on Saturday, April 19 – ahead of the OSM meetings – to boost public knowledge of the mine purchase and the draft environmental impact statement. It also is pushing for the entire 1,500-page statement to be translated into Navajo and for the OSM to extend its comment period.

Four of the nine meetings are scheduled on the 27,000-square-mile reservation, but Cooley said many Navajos still won’t have access to them.

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