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

by 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