Black Mesa Peabody Coal Debate

The Black Mesa Mine is located in northeastern Arizona on the Navajo Reservation, about 125 miles northeast of Flagstaff. The reservation is home to the Navajo and Hopi tribes, who signed a contract with Peabody Coal Company in 1964, 1966 with the Hopi, allowing company use of the aquifer for mining purposes. The Black Mesa Mine has a very long history of conflict focused around two main issues.

The first issue involves the Navajo Aquifer. Since 1964, Peabody Coal has been draining the water supply to slurry the coal, which has devastated the Navajo Aquifer. The water has been drained down by approximately 30%, which is especially troublesome given the mine's location in Arizona. The Navajo Aquifer is the sole aquifer that provides drinking water, as well as water for every day use, including farming, for the tribes. Water in the Navajo and Hopi also holds a religious significance. Many Hopi traditionalists argue that the mining and water pumping violate their "religious obligation to act as guardians of the land and its water."

The second major issue in the debate concerns Navajo Reservation and the relocation of several tribe members due to Peabody's mining pursuits. In 1974, the government partitioned the reservation providing the land for Peabody's use, but about 300 families refused to relocate and decided to fight the mining company. This issue is happening again since Peabody's 2007 plan to reopen the mine. You can read more about the historical issues in the what section.

The cancellation of Peabody's mining permit was by Judge Ramon Child on March 11th, 1996. However, the mine continued to work for several years after the termination of the permit. On December 31st, 2005, the Black Mesa Mine was finally shut down after a thirty year struggle. However, as of January 2007, only a little over a year after it's closing, Peabody is trying to obtain a permit to reopen mining at Black Mesa. Residents of Phoenix's interest in electricity has been creating political pressure, which Peabody Coal has been using to spur the reopening of the mine. If the mine reopens, Peabody would not only be using the Navajo Aquifer, but would also tap into the Coconino Aquifer. If the permit is obtained, the company would be able to pump water out of the aquifers until 2026.

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