FARMINGTON, N.M. (AP) — Navajo Upper Fruitland Chapter members recently passed a resolution in support of the Navajo Nation purchasing Navajo Mine, becoming the first chapter near the controversial mine’s operation to voice an opinion.
The Daily Times reports (http://bit.ly/17Q5z7C) that residents at a chapter meeting last week voted in favor of supporting the Navajo Transitional Energy Company LLC becoming owners of the mine.
The tribe is continuing to examine whether or not to purchase the mine, which supplies coal to the Four Corners Power Plant via its owners, BHP Billiton New Mexico Coal. The mine is located about 19 miles southwest of Farmington in Fruitland.
“The Upper Fruitland Chapter supports the Navajo Nation in purchasing Navajo Mine and that Navajo Transitional Energy Company take over ownership of the mine in all aspects that BHP Billiton currently owns and runs the mine and continue the financial assistance in the way BHP Billiton currently operates its community programs,” the resolution states.
The mine has operations within the chapter boundaries.
Chapter members in Shiprock are scheduled Sunday to consider a resolution that would support the environment group Dine CARE in requesting the Navajo Nation Council reject the mine purchase and transition toward renewable energy.
Nenahnezad, San Juan, T’iistoh Sikaad and Tse’ Daa K’aan chapters have not issued any resolutions supporting or opposing the acquisition.
Anita Hayes, Tse’ Daa K’aan Chapter manager, said the community is leaving the decision to the “mother government.”
Arthur Bavaro, community service coordinator at Nenahnezad, said chapter members understand the importance of keeping Navajo Mine in operation. Through the years, BHP Billiton has provided funding to renovate the Head Start building and improve the veterans’ park and donated road grading.
“They have been very good corporate neighbors,” Bavaro said.
In addition to the local contributions, Navajo students benefit from scholarship money BHP Billiton pays the tribe in revenues.
“This community understands that without the mine one of the most impacted areas would be the scholarship funds,” Bavaro said.
Lori Goodman, a Diné CARE board member, was not surprised that the Upper Fruitland Chapter supported the acquisition.
“Mine workers are there so, of course, they’ll vote for it,” she said. “They’re not thinking of their children’s health.”