Navajo Mine: A brief history
The original Navajo Mine Coal Lease was granted in 1957. In 1963, active Navajo Mine operations began. Over the years, it became one of the largest surface mining operations in the United States. As the sole supplier of fuel to the Four Corners Power Plant, the power generated plays a significant role in meeting energy needs of the Southwest.
Navajo Mine began large scale mining operations in 1963 by Utah International in areas south of Fruitland, New Mexico. Mining operations began the same year the Four Corners Power Plant began generating electricity. Navajo Mine coal was extracted and sold to Four Corners Power Plant, a relationship that continues to present time. In 1977, Utah International was acquired by General Electric. Then Navajo Mine changed ownership again in 1984, when BHP acquired the mine. With a 2001 merger between BHP and Billiton, the mine then was owned by BHP Billiton.
In 2012, power plant owners and BHP Billiton could not reach terms of a new coal sale agreement. At which time, the Navajo Nation stepped up and opted to purchase Navajo Mine. The move was made to secure Navajo jobs and revenue to the Navajo Nation from Navajo Mine operations. The Navajo Nation created Navajo Transitional Energy Company to purchase Navajo Mine in 2013. In late 2015, NTEC announced that a contract miner was selected operate Navajo Mine on NTEC's behalf. Bisti Fuels, a subsidiary of North American Coal Company, will begin their tenure as mine operator in 2017.
For local communities, the mine has been a source of secure, well-paying jobs where unemployment surpasses 50 percent at any given time. To date, the mine has more than 350 employees, not counting contractors. Some employees are fourth generation miners working at Navajo Mine. The mine also provides quality coal to the Four Corners Power Plant, where an additional workforce includes nearly 350 people.
Navajo Mine is located on the Navajo Nation, a vast Indian reservation that spans three states and has boundaries that encompass 27,000 square miles of traditional Navajo homelands. As such, Navajo Mine has an 85 percent workforce that are Native Americans, most of whom are Navajo. Many workers live in the local area, but others commute as many as two hours one way to be a part of Navajo Mine's workforce.
A coal sale agreement between Navajo Mine and Four Corners Power Plant ensures the mine is operational through 2031, thus providing secure jobs that many families will continue to prosper and increase their quality of life for years to come.
Historical Photos of Navajo Mine