Guest Column

Purchase of Navajo Mine will bring prosperity and balance

By Johnny Naize

WINDOW ROCK, Oct. 17, 2013

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I would like to begin by expressing my sincerest condolences and appreciation for Father Cormac Antram, who recently passed on from this world.

Father Cormac was well-known throughout the Navajo Nation for his dedicated service as a Franciscan Friar and ordained priest, and for hosting the weekly radio show entitled, "Padre Hour" which aired on several local radio stations, beginning in 1958.

During my early days at Chinle Boarding School, I was fortunate to become acquainted with Father Cormac as he conducted Mass for Chinle residents at a local church.

Years later, I got to know Father Cormac on a personal level as he served in the community of Kayenta.

I am very thankful and appreciative for the 10 years that I spent working alongside Father Cormac, assisting him with his weekly radio message to the people.

I am sure I am not alone in saying that Father Cormac was an exceptional person, who greatly admired Diné people and embraced our language and culture.

His compassion and respect for Diné people was evident through his willingness to learn and communicate with our people in our own language, and to participate in the very strenuous process of translating the Holy Mass into the Diné language, with the approval of Pope John Paul II.

For all of his endeavors and decades of service to our communities, Father Cormac will always have a special place in the hearts and minds of the many people he helped and influenced throughout our Nation.

Father Cormac provided a true example of what it means to serve the people, and it is through his example that I, as Speaker of our Nation, will continue to serve our people as we continue to confront many challenging issues.

Navajo Mine

One particular issue at our forefront is the possible acquisition of BHP Navajo Mine through the Nation's wholly owned Navajo Transitional Energy Company, LLC (NTEC).

Council delegate LoRenzo Bates, recently introduced legislation seeking $4.1 million from the Nation's Unreserved, Undesignated Fund Balance to fund initial and immediate costs associated with the completion of ongoing negotiations and to close on the transactions for the acquisition of Navajo Mine.

As speaker and as a co-sponsor of the legislation, it is my obligation to not only do what is best for our Diné people in the present time, but to also act in the best interest of future generations to come.

With that in mind, I strongly believe that the purchase of Navajo Mine fulfills both of those obligations by preserving jobs, revenue, and family life for employees of the mine and the Four Corners Power Plant, while also tasking the NTEC with researching, developing, and transitioning to more efficient and sustainable energy sources.

The name of the company, in itself, incorporates the word "transitional" for very specific reasons.

Along with the establishment of NTEC on Apr. 29, the Council approved language within the legislation which specifically states that NTEC will invest 10 percent of its annual net income into the research and development of renewable and alternative sources of energy, storage, and transmission technologies and infrastructure, with an emphasis on solar technology and facilities.

I acknowledge that coal is a non-sustainable source of energy, and that is why we have taken steps to ensure a source of funding that I believe will diversify our Nation's energy portfolio that will eventually include sustainable energy.

I have devoted an abundance of time to carefully consider the alternative, which is to allow the mine to shut down.

Shutting down the mine would end employment for approximately 800 employees at the Navajo Mine and the Four Corners Power Plant.

For the Nation, it would mean losing approximately thirty-two percent of its general fund revenue, used by programs that provide direct services to many of our people.

For hundreds of Diné employees and their families, the loss of so many jobs would create dire economic circumstances and possibly force many of them to relocate to secure new employment.

As speaker, I will not stand idle and allow this to occur.

Although some individuals have and will criticize the potential acquisition of Navajo Mine, it is my belief that doing so will allow us to determine how we, as Diné, will manage and use our own resources in a manner that will bring prosperity and balance to our people.

The purchase of the mine would bring us a step closer to truly defining our own future by creating the resources that will lead to a renewed and sustainable future for our people.

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