FARMINGTON — A bill to set a process for arbitration regarding reclamation bonds made for the Navajo Mine is making its way to the Navajo Nation Council.
Under the Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act, mine operators must present a detailed and comprehensive plan for reclaiming land, and operators must also post a performance bond to ensure the money will be available to complete the reclamation if the operator goes out of business prior to finishing the reclamation.
The Zurich American Insurance Company, which is headquartered in Switzerland, and Arch Insurance Company, based in Bermuda, are issuing the performance and reclamation bonds for Navajo Mine.
To complete the transaction for the mine, both insurance companies are requiring the tribe to agree that arbitration and any ancillary proceedings be filed in the First Judicial District Court of New Mexico or in the Superior Court of Arizona.
The legislation does not list how much the bonds are worth.
Two days after the bill became eligible for action by the council's standing committees, it was presented Thursday to the Resources and Development Committee by its sponsor, LoRenzo Bates.
Bates said when the council created the Navajo Transitional Energy Company LLC, they gave the tribal enterprise the authority to issue waivers as part of the process to acquire the mine.
But as the process moved forward, the insurance companies wanted the council to issue the waiver of sovereign immunity because NTEC is a new company with no assets or track record.
"They want the Navajo Nation's signature on this," Bates said.
The committee passed the bill with three in favor and two opposed.
It was listed on the proposed agenda for a special meeting Friday for the Budget and Finance Committee at Twin Arrows Navajo Casino Resort near Flagstaff, Ariz., but quorum was not met, and the meeting was rescheduled for Monday, according to the Legislative Branch.
If the bill had been considered by the Budget and Finance Committee, it would have continued to the Naa'bik'íyáti' Committee and then to council, where final authority rests.
As of press time Friday, the council is scheduled to meet in a special session at 10 a.m. Monday in the council chamber in Window Rock, Ariz.
Navajo Nation President Ben Shelly made the call for a special session.
In a memorandum Shelly sent Thursday to Speaker Johnny Naize and the council delegates, the president stated the meeting would be about the legislation.
"As you are aware the Navajo Transitional Energy Company has only until the end of the month of December to complete the required agreements for acquisition of the Navajo Mine. Therefore, I appeal for the Navajo Nation Council to consider my request for expedited review and action of this legislation," Shelly wrote.