It looks like another rushed “midnight regulation” from the Department of the Interior may be issued in favor of Peabody Coal, and the 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 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 citizens 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 Rep. Raúl M. Grijalva (D), who is also a leading candidate for Secretary of Interior in the Obama Administration, 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. 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.
Black Mesa is the ancestral homelands to thousands of Navajo and Hopi families, 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.
For more information and to support their efforts, visit BlackMesaWaterCoalition.org.