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Navajo and Hopi under threat from coal mine expansion at Black Mesa

by on December 8, 2008
 

The U.S. Office of Surface Mining (OSM) is preparing to make a decision on whether or not Peabody Coal’s “Black Mesa Project,” a dirty coal strip-mining operation in the territories of the Hopi and Navajo, should be permitted to re-open.

If the OSM rules in favor of Peabody Coal, the company would be given the rights to use the Navajo Aquifer, “which has been a center of controversy for the past 30 years and give Peabody Coal Company the right to mine untouched coal reserves indefinitely,” explains Enei Begaye, Co-Director of the Black Mesa Water Coalition.

It would also open the door to more evictions of Hopi and Navajo families living in Black Mesa, a 5000 square mile region that both the Hopi and Navajo regard as sacred and integral to their cultural survival.

Overall, the project renewal would:

  • Establish permanent mining rights until the coal runs out or until at least 2026!
  • Substantially accelerate global climate disruption and cause an ecological meltdown.
  • Destroy thousands of acres of pristine canyon lands, causing animal and plant ecology and cultural sites to vanish.
  • Increase the detonation of coal on a daily basis, affecting air quality and health of miners, local residents, and their livestock.
  • Deplete the already scarce water tables and regional aquifer that are all essential to residential survival.
  • Uproot & relocate families from their ancestral homelands due to coal mining expansion.
  • Sacrifice human dignity and planetary health for elite profit! Peabody would cause many more problems than what is reflected here. Its roots remain sunk deeply in the history of colonial genocide, corporate power grabs, and ecological devastation.

What you can do to help

A list of things you can do, c/o the Black Mesa Water Coalition

1. Join us in Denver! If you can make it to Denver or are already in Denver, please join us Monday December 8th at 10 am in front of the Office of Surface Mining building–Downtown Denver: 1999 Broadway Denver, CO 80202

2. Help us get to Denver! Many of the Navajo and Hopi people going to Denver are farmers, ranchers, elders, and grassroots people without a lot of financial resources. Any donation you can make will go a long way. An anonymous donor has graciously offered to match any donations made to get us to Denver. Visit our website: www.blackmesawatercoalition.org
to donate-any amount is greatly appreciated!

Funds will go to:

* Helping Navajo & Hopi Elders & young people rent vans & pay
for gas to Denver and back to Black Mesa.
* Lodging for elders or others who are in need of lodging.
* Providing food for elders and those who are in need.

3. PLEASE e-mail, mail, or fax a letter to the U.S. Office of Surface Mining and/or the U.S. Secretary of Interior. Tell OSM NOT to issue a “Life-of-Mine” permit for Peabody’s “Black Mesa Project”! Below is sample letter you can use and send to the U.S. Office of Surface Mining and/or the U.S. Secretary of the Interior.

Addresses to send letters to:
Dennis Winterringer
Western Regional Office
Office of Surface Mining, Reclamation and Enforcement
P.O. Box 46667
Denver, CO 80201-6667
Phone: 303-844-1400, ext 1440
email: bmkeis@osmre.gov

OR

Dirk Kempthorne
Secretary
Department of Interior
1849 C Street, N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20240
e-mail: webteam@ios.doi.gov

for more information please call (928) 213-5909, cell# (928)
380-6296, cell # (928) 637-5281
or e-mail blackmesawc@gmail.com

SAMPLE LETTER

Dirk Kempthorne
Secretary
Department of Interior
1849 C Street, N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20240

Dear Secretary Kempthorne:

I am writing to request your urgent attention and immediate action regarding a matter of highest importance to the integrity of your trust responsibility and to the credibility of the Department of the Office of Surface Mining, Reclamation and Enforcement (OSM).

I request that you direct OSM to suspend all activity on the Black Mesa Project Final Environmental Impact Statement (DOI DES 08-49, OSM- EIS-33). The Record of Decision (ROD) for the Black Mesa Project Final EIS will be announced by Dec. 7, 2008 and I strongly urge you to not give the applicant, Peabody Western Coal Company, a permit to mine more coal in Black Mesa, AZ.

OSM has rushed to approve a life-of-mine permit, first without making the permit revisions sufficiently available for public review, and then without adequate environmental review. The power plant that previously used Black Mesa Mine coal shut down, and there is no other proposed use for the coal whose mining would be permitted by OSM. As a result, there is no actual proposed project involving Black Mesa Mine coal to be analyzed, making the pending EIS not only premature, but in direct conflict with the requirements of the National Environmental Policy Act.

The current proposal would also grant the applicant continued access to Navajo Aquifer water for the life-of-mine operations. For over thirty years, Peabody Coal Company’s coal-slurry operation has a depleted precious drinking water and the drying of many sacred springs to the Navajo and Hopi as a result of using the Navajo Aquifer. The Navajo Aquifer is the only source of drinking water for Black Mesa tribal residents. OSM’s current proposal to grant a permit for a mine-with no potential customers-and indefinite use of water rights to the Navajo Aquifer is an affront to tribal
communities, and if allowed to proceed, would be a clear failure to meet the Secretary of the Interior’s trust responsibility to the people of the Hopi Tribe and Navajo Nation.

Thank you for your consideration,

Sincerely,

YOUR NAME

For more information and background, please visit blackmesawatercoalition.org, blackmesatrust.org, and blackmesais.org. Photo from sacredlandfilm.org

   
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  • December 8, 2008 at 11:48 am

    For immediate release: Monday, December 8, 2008

    Contacts: Nikke Alex, (505) 879-7461 and Chelsea Chee, (928) 637-5592 (both on-site cell phones in Denver, CO)

    Navajo & Hopi Tribal Leaders and Community Members Protest “Midnight Regulation” to Expand Peabody’s Coal Mining Operation on Black Mesa, Arizona

    Delegation Travels to Denver to meet with Office of Surface Mining, Hold Press Conference and Rally

    WHEN: Monday Dec. 8th, 1 PM (MST)

    WHERE: Sidewalk in front of The Office of Surface Mining – Downtown Denver
    1999 Broadway, Denver, CO 80202

    WHO: Speakers will include Hopi Chairman, Ben Nuvamsa; Hopi tribal member Maxine Wadsworth, Navajo tribal member Leonard Benally, Black Mesa Water Coalition Director Wahleah Johns

    Denver, CO – It looks like another rushed “midnight regulation” from the Department of the Interior may be issued in favor of Peabody Coal, and the affected Navajo and Hopi people of Black Mesa are trying to stop it. A large delegation has traveled to Denver to meet with top officials in the Office of Surface Mining (OSM) and hold a press conference and rally in downtown Denver to protest the pending decision, which will grant the coal company a “life-of-mine” permit, expanded mining operations and rights to tap the fresh water of the Navajo aquifer.

    Navajo and Hopi citizen’s were given 45 days to comment on a revised “Black Mesa Project” Draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) and were never offered a public commenting period. Requests for commenting period extensions were denied by OSM as well as requests for OSM to come to Navajo and Hopi lands for question and answer meetings.

    Arizona Congressman, and leading candidate for Secretary of Interior in the Obama Administration, Raúl M. Grijalva has asked current Secretary of the Interior Dirk Kempthorne to suspend further consideration of Peabody’s permit. “At present, OSM is rushing to approve a life-of-mine permit, first without making the permit revisions sufficiently available for public review, and then without adequate environmental review.”

    “Mining at Black Mesa has caused springs on Hopi lands to dry up and jeopardized the sole source of drinking water for many Hopis and Navajos,” stated Grijalva. “The Secretary, as the trustee for Native American tribes, must ensure that mining is done responsibly on tribal lands and that tribes actually want mining to occur. This project does not meet that test.”

    Former Navajo Chairman Peter MacDonald Sr. also recently came out against the expanded permit for Peabody, “The best thing that the Navajo Nation could do is to get rid of Peabody.”

    The Hopi Tribal Council is officially opposed to this project, however, the Council is currently in turmoil over the suspension of the Tribal Chairman. As a result, proper consultation with the Tribe, as required by federal law, cannot occur.

    “The Interior Department and OSM are moving forward on this project to try to approve it before the end of the year,” said Grijalva. “During a time of sacred religious ceremonies on Hopi, OSM is expecting the Hopi people to understand a complicated legal process to approve mining without a functioning tribal council to represent them. The Secretary needs to suspend this process until the tribal council is once again functional and spiritual ceremonies have concluded. Doing otherwise ignores the important obligations the federal government has toward tribes.”

    In addition, the power plant that previously used Black Mesa Mine coal shut down, and there is no other proposed use for the coal whose mining would be permitted by OSM. As a result, there is no actual proposed project involving Black Mesa Mine coal to be analyzed, making the pending decision not only premature, but in direct conflict with the requirements of the National Environmental Policy Act. According to former Hopi Tribal Chairman, Vernon Masayesva, “No customer means no project – you can’t do an EIS unless you have a real project, yet OSM is going ahead with getting a life-of-mine permit.”

    Black Mesa Navajo and Hopi residents are concerned about how this project will impact the future of their homelands given the history of Peabody’s unwise use of the Navajo Aquifer. “For decades coal and water from our lands have been taken to power Los Angeles and Las Vegas. Yet, we have have suffered the loss of our sole source drinking water to accomodate the over consumption of these areas,” says Nikke Alex.

    Black Mesa is the ancestral homelands to thousands of Navajo and Hopi families and is regarded as a sacred mountain to the Navajo people and plays an integral role in the cultural survival for the future generations of both the Navajo and Hopi people. Many Navajo and Hopi people stand firmly in opposition to this mine expansion plan and are organizing to voice their concerns.

    Reply

  • Bill Havens
    December 9, 2008 at 10:50 am

    Peabody has been suborning the Hopi Tribal government for decades by misleading and influencing key individuals within the Tribe’s government and administration in order to maintain their monopoly on the exploitation of the Tribe’s resources and to assure the maximization of their profits. In comparison to Peabody’s profits, the Hopi Tribe receives next to nothing in return for their coal and water. What they do receive is the destruction of the N-Aquifer and a corrupt and divided Tribal government. The State of Arizona receives approximately 3 times as much revenue in taxes (about $20 million) from Peabody’s severance of coal from the state than the Tribe gets for the sale of the coal.

    There is reason to be suspicious that Peabody has inappropriately (if not illegally) influenced key officials and tribal members to achieve its goal of complete control, in perpetuity, of Black Mesa coal resources.

    The urgency that OSM, acting as agents for Peabody, has placed on the approval of Peabody’s long sought after life-of-mine permit has escalated the controversy within the Tribal government and has directly contributed to, if not caused, the current dysfunctional condition of the Hopi Tribal government.

    Peabody has caused disputes between the tribes and has brought about corruption and a breakdown of the Hopi Tribal government. It’s time to expel Peabody from Black Mesa and allow the Tribes to benefit directly from the management of their natural resources.

    Reply

  • December 18, 2008 at 2:38 am

    Coal is playing a vital role in the world in producing power. US as a huge amount of coal where they can survive for more than 200 yrs of power supply with that.

    Reply

    • December 18, 2008 at 11:36 am

      Maybe so, Jerome, but it’s a fundamental violation of human and indigenous rights for any government or corporation to manipulate, forcefully eject, and endanger the health and livelihood of people to get it.


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