West Virginia Citizens join with Navajo & Hopi Tribal Leaders and Community Members to Protest Office of Surface Mining

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Charleston, WV and Denver, CO (HNN) – Citizens in West Virginia and the Navajo and Hopi in Arizona and New Mexico have more in common than they once thought. Both areas are dealing with loss of water, land and cultural resources as a result of surface mining, and both are frustrated with the systemic lack of enforcement and lack of citizen involvement from the federal government.

“When we met with folks from the Navajo community out west, we realized we are having the same problems,” said Vernon Haltom of Coal River Mountain Watch. “They are struggling with bad water, loss of culture and heritage, and systemic apathy from government agencies.”

The issue these groups are responding to is a 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 under threat from coal mine expansion at Black Mesa

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

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


Dirk Kempthorne
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


Dirk Kempthorne
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,




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

Halt Peabody: Navajo and Hopi delegation to Denver

This was originally posted by Brenda Norell at http://bsnorrell.blogspot.com/

Halt Peabody: Navajo and Hopi delegation to Denver

Navajo & Hopi tribal members travel to Denver to meet with the Western Regional Office of Surface Mining as the agency prepares to permit Peabody Coal Company’s Black Mesa Project
Panel Discussion & Press Conference Announcement

WHAT: Panel Discussion, Navajo and Hopi delegation to Denver
*free and open to the public*
WHEN: Sunday Dec. 7th, 1-3 PM (MST)
WHERE: Denver Indian Center, 4407 Morrison Road Denver, CO 80219

WHAT: PRESS CONFERENCE, Navajo & Hopi People Say No to Coal Mining
WHEN: Monday Dec. 8th, 1 PM (MST)
WHERE: Sidewalk in front of Office of Surface Mining – DOWNTOWN Denver – 1999 Broadway, Suite 3320 Denver, CO 80202

Background Information:
Concerned Navajo & Hopi people will rally in downtown Denver on Monday while a small delegation meets with Office of Surface Mining (OSM) personnel at their offices in Denver. OSM is expected to make a final decision – a “Record of Decision” – on Peabody’s proposed Black Mesa Project. The controversial plan includes approval of a “Life-of-mine” permit, expanded mining operations, use of scarce water resources and an unclear buyer of the coal supply, potentially to the Navajo Generating Station in Page, AZ.

After a year of inactivity on the “Black Mesa Project” Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS), the process was restarted on May 2008. Navajo and Hopi citizen’s were given 45 days to comment on a revised Draft 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.

The Final EIS states “if OSM approves the LOM revision for the Black Mesa Complex, the area previously associated with the Black Mesa operation (18,857 acres), including associated surface facilities, would be added to the 44,073 acres of the existing OSM permanent permit area for the Black Mesa Complex, bringing the total acres to 62,930, which would be considered as one operation for the purpose of regulation by OSM. This entire area is within Peabody’s existing coal leases. The coal-mining leases with the Hopi Tribe and Navajo Nation provide Peabody the right to produce up to 290 million tons of coal from the Navajo Exclusive Lease Area and up to 380 million tons of coal from the Hopi and Navajo Joint Lease Area for a combined total of 670 million tons.”

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 to transport coal to MGS. Many community members from the Navajo Nation and the Hopi Tribe are extremely disappointed in the lack of public outreach the Office of Surface Mining office and Department of the Interior has carried out through the National Environmental Protection Act (NEPA) process.

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 firm and oppose this mine expansion plan and are organizing to voice their concerns to the western regional office of the Office of Surface Mining in Denver, CO. on Dec. 8, 2008.


One-size-fits-all plan doesn’t fit Navajo

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WINDOW ROCK — A one-size-fits-all analysis is inappropriate when it comes to the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s “Generic Environmental Impact Statement for In-Situ Leach Uranium Milling Facilities,” according to the Navajo Nation.

“The jurisdictional issue involving the Navajo Nation cannot be looked at in a vacuum. It involves substantial environmental justice implications for a Native Nation uniquely impacted by past activities now under the direct control of the NRC, ” David Taylor, principal attorney with the Natural Resources Unit, stated in comments to the NRC sent Nov. 7.

The NRC “continues in its failure to recognize the devastating impact of past uranium mining and milling operations on Navajo people and Navajo lands. This is not only an environmental issue, but also an issue implicating both the NRC’s trust duty to the Navajo Nation and, more generally, environmental justice,” he said


Navajo, Hopi challenged to prove radiation danger

UPPER MOENKOPI, Ariz. – “We are following the law; I can’t apologize for the last 10 years. You must convince me that there is an imminent threat.”

Jack Reever, Director of Facilities, Environmental and Cultural Resources for the Bureau Indian Affairs (BIA), delivered that challenge during a recent visit to the Hopi village that included a tour of sacred springs, farmland and the Tuba City Open Dump.


30 Days: Life on an Indian Reservation

30 Days: Life on an Indian Reservation

Growing up in the US, the documentarian Morgan Spurlock wasn’t any different from most Americans (and Canadians); knowing very little about indigenous people, their history, or the problems they face today.

And so, for the season finale of his television series 30 Days, Morgan decided to “leave America as he knows it, without ever actually leaving US soil, to live with a people who many see as refugees in their own country:” the Navajo.

Hulu.com has the full 30 Days episode, “Life on an Indian Reservation”, available on their website. You can watch it below, however, only if you’re in the US. Hulu is a US-only video service.

If you’re outside the states and really want to watch it, you can download and install Hotspot Shield, then come back here (or go to hulu.)

Incidentally, Canada’s CPAC is currently running a related, multi-part documentary called Our Home on Native Land, which examines life on a few reservations in Canada. If you can figure out the timezone issue, you can watch it online aswell (no matter your location). The next part will be shown on Sunday, July 20 at 8PM ET / 5PM PT.

Thoughts on the Episode

I heard Morgan was heading to “Indian Country” about a month ago. Honestly, I hoped he was going to spend the time at the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota, which is said to be the most impoverished place in North America (right next to Haiti).

Morgan’s stay on Navajoland is still somewhat revealing, however, as Chris Monfette points out, the episode was in many respects a soft-peddled, made-for-tv look at what’s really going on. There are tonnes of issues that we’re not mentioned, such as the uranium contamination – and the issues that were mentioned were not examined in any real depth.

Nevertheless, with there being so few opportunities for people to see what indigenous people really face, it’s good Morgan decided to go to Navajo Country… to try and see the world through their eyes, and understand it with their voice. If only more people had the courage to follow his example.

30 Days: Life on an Indian Reservation

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