Farmington — Shiprock Chapter members could be asked next month to approve a resolution objecting to a measure waiving all liabilities for BHP Billiton as a parrt of the Navajo Nation's purchase of the Navajo Mine.
The liability waiver was outlined in an agreement that was part of legislation that the Navajo Nation Council approved Oct. 23. It was signed into law Oct. 24 by Navajo Nation President Ben Shelly.
The proposed resolution was presented to chapter residents during a chapter meeting Sunday by Shiprock Chapter president Duane "Chili" Yazzie.
It calls for the chapter to object to the council's approval to waive all past, present and future claims, demands, damages, indebtedness, liabilities, obligations, costs, expenses and actions for BHP Billiton.
"The Shiprock Chapter membership believe that it is unconscionable to absolve BHP Mines of all historical, present and all future liabilities related to the BHP Navajo Mine in perpetuity," the resolution states.
No action was taken on the proposed resolution because designated chapter members were going to meet with BHP Billiton officials this week to discuss the issues and concerns, Yazzie said on Monday.
When asked to elaborate on what issues and concerns the chapter has, Yazzie said, "I would rather save them for the sit down."
In a press release issued Monday by Yazzie, he says the tribe and the Navajo people deserve more from BHP Billiton since it has "enjoyed paying a royalty rate of 25 cents a ton for coal" and has been mining on tribal land for more than 50 years.
"The granting of a blanket waiver of all 'know or unknown' liability past, present and future to BHP Mines in perpetuity is troubling," the press release stated.
But on Tuesday, Yazzie said there would be no meeting with BHP because the chapter was advised to bring lawyers to the meeting which was not agreeable to BHP Billiton.
BHP Billiton spokesman Norman Benally confirmed there would be no meeting but added that the company is willing to meet with community members.
Benally explained that when company officials met Saturday with Yazzie, they had the understanding the meeting would be with select community members but when Yazzie later told officials that they would be meeting with lawyers, it changed the scope of the meeting.
Since the legislation containing the liability waiver was signed into law, the lawyers would need to talk to the Navajo Nation Department of Justice rather than BHP Billiton, Benally said.
The mutual release agreement is in "Exhibit G" of the legislation that amended the plan of operation for the Navajo Transitional Energy Company LLC.
Exhibit G was added to the bill Oct. 17 by the Naabikiyati Committee, whose membership consists of 24 delegates, after more than an hour of discussion in executive session.
The bill passed by a vote of 16 in favor and 5 opposed.
This is not the first time Shiprock Chapter has talked about voicing an opinion about the mine acquisition.
The chapter also considered a proposed resolution to side with the environmental group Dine CARE to oppose the purchase.
After tabling that resolution, it was deleted from the Oct. 14 chapter meeting agenda by chapter members.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.