BHP, NTEC sign final purchase agreements

By Alastair Lee Bitsoi
Navajo Times

WINDOW ROCK, Oct. 31, 2013

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Ff there is anything grassroots organizations like Diné C.A.R.E. find more horrifying than ghosts, witches and goblins this Halloween, it has to be the final agreements signed today between BHP Billiton and the Navajo Transitional Energy Company for NTEC's purchase of Navajo Mine.

Diné C.A.R.E. has opposed the tribe and NTEC's acquisition of Navajo Mine, saying it will subject the Navajo people to unknown liabilities it won't be able to afford.

"I don't think they have the final say," said Lori Goodman of Diné C.A.R.E. "Where is the Department of Interior here? They have the trust responsibility."

Goodman and Diné C.A.R.E have protested the tribe's acquisition of Navajo Mine for numerous reasons, including pressuring tribal leaders to wait for the findings of a comprehensive environmental impact statement of the entire mine site and Four Corners Power Plant.

"The tribe's waiver of liabilities in absence of the EIS would subject Navajo people to liabilities we can't afford," Goodman said. "Without the consent of the (DOI) secretary, they can't do anything."

Meanwhile, the signing of the final purchase agreements between both parties on Thursday means that the next steps to follow are the owners of the 2,000-megawatt FCPP approving the agreements by the end of November.

And after those approvals, a coal supply agreement between NTEC, as the new coal supplier, and owners of FCPP, which includes Arizona Public Service, would also need to be signed and executed.

The coal supply agreement, once signed, will extend the life of Navajo Mine to 2031, with ownership being transferred to NTEC by Dec.1, according to a BHP Billiton press release issued Thursday.

In the news release, Pat Risner, New Mexico Coal Asset President, applauded the execution of the final agreements and also expressed how BHP was pleased to work with the Navajo Nation and NTEC for its acquisition of Navajo Mine.

"BHP Billiton is pleased to have worked with the Navajo Nation to secure the future of the mine and the benefits it provides to the Navajo Nation, employees, communities and other stakeholders," Risner said.

Riser added that BHP Billiton will remain as the manager and operator of Navajo Mine until 2016 on behalf of NTEC.

"The mine will continue to be a significant contributor to the Navajo Nation's and the Four Corners region's economic base," Riser said.

According to Norman D. Benally, media contact for BHP Billiton, the successful completion of the transaction will extend the life of Navajo Mine and FCPP 15 years beyond 2015.

Benally added the extension of Navajo Mine and FCPP also means the continued employment of 800 people at both companies and ensure the Navajo Nation continues to receive revenue from the coal industry that makes about 30 percent of its general fund budget.

"According to a recent study by Arizona State University, it will generate 2,069 direct and indirect jobs and result in an economic contribution of $372 million each year in San Juan County for the period of 2016 to 2031," or over $5.5 billion during that period, Benally said.

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