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Black Mesa Coal


Peabody uses this pristine water supply simply to mix with crushed coal-called "slurry." This "slurry" is then pumped through a pipeline over 275 miles to the Mohave Generating Station in Nevada.

With every breath we take, 50 gallons of pristine ground water has just been pumped from the dry lands of northeastern Arizona. On Black Mesa, home to the Hopi and Navajo people, more than 300 gallons of potential drinking water has, in the last 10 seconds just been mixed with crushed coal. In the time it took to read these sentences Peabody Coal Company pumps over a thousand gallons of the cleanest groundwater in North America, simply to transport coal. Today, Peabody Coal pumps more than 3,600 acre-feet (equivalent to 4,600 football fields, one foot deep) per year of pristine water from the Navajo Aquifer.

Instantly and permanently a sole drinking water source is polluted and taken away from a land and peoples that need it most. For more than 30 years, atop Black Mesa, Arizona, Peabody Coal Company has been exploiting the pristine drinking water source of the Navajo and Hopi people.

Black Mesa extends into both the Diné (Navajo) and Hopi reservations, in northeastern Arizona. This area has been the center of many environmental and social injustices. The continued destruction of Diné and Hopi traditional homelands is endangering the cultural survival of our people and is largely contributing to the many challenges our youth face.

The Black Mesa region of northeastern Arizona is a land of sweeping beauty, deep colors, and thriving cultural roots. This area is the traditional land base and home to both the Navajo and Hopi peoples. The area is full of life, wild sagebrush and grass valleys spread between mesa covered in pinion and juniper trees. Among the range of wildlife are lizards, coyotes, deer, and eagles. Domestic sheep, horses and cattle dot the landscape. However, the earth in this area supports only so much of her creations. The living beings of this land must learn to live within the resource boundaries our Mother Earth has outlined.

Water is precious on this land. The high plateaus of the Black Mesa region are describes as a semi-desert environment. On a good year, the area gets, at most, between 7-12 inches of rain. Rain waters recharge underlying groundwater sources (called "aquifers"), the most significant being the Navajo Aquifer (N-Aquifer). Groundwater feeds an array of natural springs.

The springs are essential to the religious practices of both the Hopi and Navajo people. Navajo and Hopi communities depend on this groundwater for livestock, agriculture, cleaning, and drinking.

On this magnificent land, rich with so many beautiful creatures, water really is life.


Since 1965 Peabody Western Coal Company has been operating two strip mines on Black Mesa - the Kayenta and Black Mesa mines. Together, these mines makeup one of the largest strip mining operations in the United States.
The Black Mesa mine supplies coal to the Mohave Generating Station (MGS) outside of Laughlin, Nevada. Electricity from this plant powers southern California, Las Vegas, and central Arizona.


This is the only slurry pipeline in the U.S. It has been operating without a permit for the last 10 years, under an "administrative delay" allowed by the Department of the Interior.The annual reports of the U.S. Geological Survey to the Office of Surface Mining show that the water table is dropping. (See also the National Resources Defense Council report "Drawdown Mining Water on Black Mesa.")

There are viable alternatives to transport coal, which have been known for at least 10 years, yet nothing has been done to stop the draw down of a sole source of drinking water. People of the Black Mesa region and beyond are outraged by this unwise use of an only drinking water source.

In an area where water is already limited, water should not be used to transport coal. In the southwestern United States, slurry is particularly outrageous, as the battle over scarce water resources have been underway for decades. Furthermore, there have been a number of reported breaks in the slurry pipeline over the past months. These breaks have resulted in hundreds of tons of coal slurry flooding and contaminating previously undisturbed lands and stream beds. Most people do not need science to see the obvious: all too precious water is being rapidly and permanently wasted.

Peabody Western Coal has plans to extend its mining operations on Black Mesa and has filed a lease extension application with the federal Office of Surface Mining (OSM). Peabody plans to obtain a “Life of Mine” permit -which means it would be permitted to continue its unsustainable and dirty coal mining practices until all of the coal is removed!

To transport the coal, the company plans on continuing its practice of taking billions of gallons of water a year from the only water sources in the area, drawing down both high quality, residential water aquifers: Navajo Aquifer and Coconino Aquifer. These developments threaten the viability of the region's primary water source. Plans include relocating at least 17 families.

The Office of Surface Mining conducted public hearings on Peabody’s Black Mesa Project Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) from January 2-11, 2007. These “public hearings” are being held more as open houses than public hearings. OSM is not making room for actual public commenting (open for all to hear), instead there are a number of tables being set up throughout the room and you can ask questions or submit comments to each of those tables if you choose. This is yet another example of how unfair this process is being carried out. However, you can still submit written comments to OSM on their EIS up until Feb. 6th. Please go to www.blackmesawatercoalition.org/BM_EIS_%20fact_sheet.pdf for our fact sheet and addresses for comments to OSM. This is a critical time on energy issues throughout the Navajo Nation as well as throughout Indian Country. Please help us get the word out about Peabody's proposed Black Mesa Project and all the detrimental impact of this plan.

Excerpted with permission from the Black Mesa Water Coalition website.

Black Mesa Water Coalition: www.blackmesawatercoalition.org
· (928) 213-9760

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“We, the Peoples gathered at the Indigenous World Uranium Summit, at this critical time of intensifying nuclear threats to Mother Earth and all life, demand a worldwide ban on uranium mining, processing, enrichment, fuel use, and weapons testing and deployment, and nuclear waste dumping on Native Lands.”

—Declaration of the Indigenous World Uranium Summit December 2, 2006

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