Washington, D.C.– This week, Congressman Raúl M. Grijalva asked Secretary of the Interior Dirk Kempthorne to suspend further consideration of a proposal to restart coal mining at Black Mesa, located in Northern Arizona on Hopi and Navajo tribal lands.
The Office of Surface Mining has proposed to allow mining to continue, although the customer for the coal, Mohave Generating Plant, has shut down and there is currently no other customer for Black Mesa coal.
“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,” stated Grijalva. “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.”
The Hopi Tribal Council is officially opposed to this project, however, the Council is currently in turmoil over the suspension of the Tribal Chairman. As a result, proper consultation with the Tribe, as required by federal law, cannot occur.
“The Interior Department and OSM are moving forward on this project to try to approve it before the end of the year,” said Grijalva. “During a time of sacred religious ceremonies on Hopi, OSM is expecting the Hopi people to understand a complicated legal process to approve mining without a functioning tribal council to represent them. The Secretary needs to suspend this process until the tribal council is once again functional and spiritual ceremonies have concluded. Doing otherwise ignores the important obligations the federal government has toward tribes.”
Congressman Grijalva also asked for additional hearings and meetings in Northern Arizona before the project moves forward so that full participation from the communities can be assured.