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For Immediate Release, January 22, 2009


Wahleah Johns, Black Mesa Water Coalition (928) 213-5909
Anna Frazier, Dine CARE (928) 380-7697
Andy Bessler, Sierra Club, (928) 774-6103
Amy Atwood, Center for Biological Diversity, (541) 914-8372

Peabody Energy's Plan to Reopen Black Mesa Coal Mine Threatens
Navajo and Hopi Communities, Religious Freedom,
Water Supplies, and Wildlife; Will Worsen Global Warming

Diverse Coalition of Tribal and Conservation Groups Appeal
Peabody's Illegal Permit for Black Mesa Coal Mine

BLACK MESA, Ariz.— In the waning days of the Bush administration, the Office of Surface Mining hurriedly issued a “Life-of-Mine” permit allowing Peabody Energy to reopen the controversial Black Mesa coal mine in northeastern Arizona. This permit allows Peabody Energy to consolidate the Black Mesa and Kayenta mines into a massive, 65,000-acre mine complex. A diverse coalition of tribal and conservation groups yesterday appealed the permit, citing concerns about air and water pollution, global warming, ground water depletion, and impacts to religious freedom.

“This Life of Mine permit will have a devastating effect on the cultural survival of the future generations of both Navajo and Hopi,” said Anthony Lee, president of the Dine Hataalii (medicine man) Association. “The natural elements of light, water, air, and earth are interconnected. If one of these elements is disturbed or abused, the well-being and wholeness of the Navajo people and all life forms will be in disharmony and serious imbalances will occur, such as is the case with global warming.”

Yesterday’s appeal of the December 22, 2008 issuance of a permit cites procedural and substantive violations of several laws, including the National Environmental Policy Act and the Surface Mining Reclamation Control Act.

“As Navajo and Hopi community members, we were denied an extension of the commenting period, we were denied informal conference meetings, we were denied public hearings, we were even denied the ability to see Peabody’s revised permit application,” said Enei Begaye, Black Mesa Water Coalition director. “This process has only valued corporate interests rather those who would be most impacted by this mining complex.”

Peabody ’s coal mining operations on Black Mesa have for more than 35 years been dependent on a sole source of drinking water for Navajo and Hopi communities. Between 1969 and 2005 Peabody pumped an average of 4,600 acre-feet of water annually from the Navajo Aquifer, resulting in significant damage to community water supplies. Peabody’s permit would allow a continued pumping at approximately 1,200 acre-feet per year.

“Our water has reached irreversible damage, families face devastating impacts,” said Nicole Horseherder, Navajo citizen and Black Mesa resident. “Our leaders don't realize that the American dream is no longer the big house with the white fence and new car in the drive. The American dream is clean air and pure water and a sustainable economy based on clean technology and renewable energy.”

The permit allows for continued coal mining into the year 2025 and an estimated 670 million tons of coal to be extracted.

“Coal combustion allowed by the mine permit will devastate the surrounding communities and result in massive amounts of greenhouse gas emissions,” said Amy Atwood, senior attorney and public lands energy director at the Center for Biological Diversity, “yet the federal agencies’ analyses flatly ignored the impacts of global warming to endangered species and their habitats.”

“Our value isn’t just money from resources extraction, our value comes from our culture and our relationship with Mother Earth. Black Mesa is the female mountain, coal is her liver, water is her lifeblood, and we need to leave it in the ground,” said Marie Gladue Dine from Black Mesa. “Taking coal out of the earth is a dirty business, and it’s time to move toward a clean energy future that respects indigenous communities and our future generations.”

The diverse coalition of organizations Black Mesa Water Coalition, To Nizhoni Ani, Dine CARE, Dine Hataalii Association, Inc., Dine Alliance, C-Aquifer for Dine, NRDC, the Center for Biological Diversity, and Sierra Club filed an appeal to the U.S. Department of the Interior Office of Hearings and Appeals. The organizations are represented by the Energy Minerals Law Center in Durango, Colorado.

“We have to do everything we can to reverse this Life of Mine permit,” said Bucky Preston, Hopi traditional leader. “Otherwise our future children will be living without water in a devastated land, and they will ask us why we didn’t fight for them.”


The Black Mesa mine closed in 2005 when a court settlement shut down the power plant it fed, the Mojave Generating Station in Laughlin, Nevada, for pollution violations. In issuance of a permit to Peabody, neither the Office of Surface Mining nor Peabody identified a new purchaser or consumer of coal for the mine. In addition, federal agencies’ analysis of the permit failed to adequately consider the impacts of global warming on endangered fish in the Colorado River.

By contributing to global warming-related droughts and pumping more groundwater, permitted mining would exacerbate the effects more than 30 years of Peabody’s groundwater depletion that has drained billions of gallons of water from aquifers. Peabody’s pumping has corresponded to depleted wells and decreased surface flows in area springs and creeks upon which residents and wildlife depend. Despite evidence of continuing aquifer deterioration, the Office of Surface Mining and Peabody seek to continue extracting 1,236 acre-feet of groundwater from the Navajo Aquifer for mining operations over the permit period ending 2025.

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