Farmington — Upper Fruitland Chapter members have passed a resolution in support of the Navajo Nation purchasing Navajo Mine.
In a chapter meeting Wednesday, 35 residents voted in favor of the resolution supporting the Navajo Transitional Energy Company LLC becoming owners of the mine, which has operations within the chapter boundaries. Three people were opposed to the measure and three abstained.
"The Upper Fruitland Chapter supports the Navajo Nation in purchasing Navajo Mine and that Navajo Transitional Energy Company take over ownership of the mine in all aspects that BHP Billiton currently owns and runs the mine and continue the financial assistance in the way BHP Billiton currently operates its community programs," the resolution states.
The tribe is continuing to examine whether or not to purchase the mine, which supplies coal to the Four Corners Power Plant via its owners, BHP Billiton New Mexico Coal. The mine is located about 19 miles southwest of Farmington in Fruitland.
The original deadline to close the deal was July 1, but it was moved to Dec. 31 because the Arizona Corporation Commission was considering deregulation of the state's electric energy market, NTEC management board Chairman Steven Gundersen told the Naa'bik'íyáti' Committee last week.
But on Sept. 11, the Arizona Corporation Commission announced they would end the inquiry.
Gundersen said the decision now allows Arizona Public Service Co., which owns the power plant, to continue with its purchase of units No. 4 and No. 5 from Southern California Edison.
So far, Upper Fruitland is the only chapter near the mine's operation to issue a resolution voicing an opinion on the matter.
On Sunday, chapter members in Shiprock will consider a resolution that would support the environment group Diné CARE in requesting the Navajo Nation Council reject the mine purchase and transition toward renewable energy.
Nenahnezad, San Juan, T'iistoh Sikaad and Tsé Daa K'aan chapters have not issued any resolutions supporting or opposing the acquisition.
Anita Hayes, Tsé Daa K'aan Chapter manager, said the community is leaving the decision to the "mother government."
Arthur Bavaro, community service coordinator at Nenahnezad, said chapter members understand the importance of keeping Navajo Mine in operation. Through the years, BHP Billiton has provided funding to renovate the Head Start building and improve the veterans park and donated road grading.
"They have been very good corporate neighbors," Bavaro said.
In addition to the local contributions, Navajo students benefit from scholarship money BHP Billiton pays the tribe in revenues.
"This community understands that without the mine one of the most impacted areas would be the scholarship funds," Bavaro said.
Lori Goodman, a Diné CARE board member, was not surprised that the Upper Fruitland Chapter supported the acquisition.
"Mine workers are there so, of course, they'll vote for it," she said. "They're not thinking of their children's health."
Throughout the mine acquisition process, Diné CARE has questioned the mine's effects on health and the environment.
The group also continues to request that results of the due diligence report on the mine be publicly released.
Last October, the council approved $750,000 to hire consultants to research, study and investigate the potential purchase of the mine. The council also authorized another $2.3 million to continue the investigation.
"They can remedy this by releasing the due diligence report to the Navajo stockholders," Goodman said.Noel Lyn Smith covers the Navajo Nation for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4636 and firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @nsmithdt on Twitter.