Black Mesa Project impacts include relocation
November 30, 2006
By Kathy Helms
WINDOW ROCK — Peabody Western Coal Co.’s proposed Black Mesa Project
would require the relocation of 17 Navajo households, the clearing of
more than 13,000 acres of land, and an expected decrease in groundwater
According to a Draft Environmental Impact Statement released last week
by the Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement, the
primary impacts to people and lands adjacent to the Black Mesa Complex
are relocation, nuisance dust and noise.
Peabody would attempt to relocate the families to other sections of
their customary use areas. The relocation would include providing new
houses, areas for family garden plots and livestock grazing.
The families would be able to return to their original home sites
following reclamation of the mined area, or in about 20 to 25 years,
according to the EIS.
It is anticipated that during the 20 to 25 year reclamation timeline,
the groundwater system would reach a new balance.
“Some springs could return, but some would not. There also could be a
decrease in groundwater quality, both from increased total dissolved
solids and formation of acidic water pockets,” OSM said.
Peabody would be required to provide alternate water supplies in areas
affected by contamination, the diminishment of water supplies, or
interruption resulting from mining operations.
Refuse from coal washing and earth materials would be reburied in mined
pits, with impacts expected to be similar to that already experienced.
Under the preferred alternative, the upper 250 feet of surface material
would be removed from more than 13,529 acres. This would include the
loss of about 8,500 acres of pinon and juniper and about 4,200 acres of
All vegetation on the 13,529 acres would be permanently removed during
the mining operation.
The currently unpermitted 18,984 acres where the Black Mesa mining
operation has been conducted would be added to the 44,073 acres in the
existing OSM permit area along with 127 acres on the Hopi Reservation
for a proposed 2-mile-long and 500-foot-wide coal-haul road
This would give Peabody a permit area totaling 63,184 acres for the
Black Mesa Complex.
If approved, the Kayenta and Black Mesa mining operations would be
considered one operation for the purpose of regulation by OSM, and
would continue until 2026.
All operations related to mining and coal handling would result in
about 145 tons of additional particulate matter being generated by the
end of the project.
Particulate matter is very small solid particles of chemicals, soil or
dust, and liquid droplets that can aggravate breathing and health
problems. Residents living next to the mining operations would have
Reconstruction of the coal slurry pipeline would disturb another 2,100
acres of land. That could take in from 24 percent to 38 percent of
previously undisturbed land, depending on which route is chosen.
Twenty-three cultural resources eligible for listing on the National
Register of Historic Places were identified within the existing
coal-slurry pipeline right-of-way.
Those sites are considered significant because of their potential to
yield important information about the prehistory and history of the
An alternate route would affect nine more sites, all of which also are
National Register-eligible properties, OSM said.
There are about 55 residences located within the area identified for
the C-aquifer well field. Impacts include temporary interruption of
grazing and traffic.
Another potential impact is the lowering of water levels in shallow
livestock wells in the vicinity of the well field. Should the
groundwater levels drop to the point the shallow wells become
inoperable, an alternate water source would be provided.
About 160 acres of grazing land within the well-field area would be
permanently lost due to construction of support structures. The
structures would create visual impacts that would be minimized by
painting them to blend with the surroundings.
The well field also could impact numerous archaeological,
historical, and traditional cultural resources, according to OSM.
Pipeline meeting schedule:
Public meetings will be held in:
* Window Rock on Jan. 2, from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. in the Resource Room at
the Navajo Nation Museum, Highway 64 and Loop Road.
*Moenkopi on Jan. 3, from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. at the Community Center.
*Kayenta on Jan. 4 from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. at the Monument Valley High
School cafeteria, north Highway 163.
* Kykotsmovi on Jan. 4 from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. at the Veterans Center.
* Leupp on Jan. 9 from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. at the Leupp Chapter House on
Navajo Route 15.
* Winslow on Jan. 10 from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. at the Winslow High School,
Student Union, 600 E. Cherry Avenue.
* Flagstaff on Jan. 11 from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. at the Little America Hotel,
2515 East Butler Avenue.
The draft EIS is available for review at
A limited number of CD and paper copies of the draft EIS have been
prepared and are available upon request. For more information, contact
Dennis Winterringer, Leader, Black Mesa Project EIS, OSM Western Region,
at (303) 844-1400,
ext. 1440, or by e-mail at BMKEIS@osmre.gov.
E-mail comments should be sent to BMKEIS@osmre.gov