Navajo Transitional Energy Company will use new machines to haul coal to power plant

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FARMINGTON — Motorists traveling on N.M. Highway 371 today might have seen an unusual sight as crews transported an orange, black and tan locomotive.

The locomotive is one of two purchased by the Navajo Transitional Energy Company to use to haul coal from the Navajo Mine to the Four Corners Power Plant.

"We're quite excited about them. It's new state-of-the-art technology for the next 14, 15 years. It'll give us reliable and safe production," NTEC CEO Clark Moseley said in an interview Monday.

Both are diesel locomotives and are part of the "evolution series" of locomotives produced by the General Electric Co.

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They were designed by GE to meet the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's Tier 4 emission standards for new locomotives and can produce at least 4,400 horsepower.

Both carry the NTEC logo and the emblem of the North American Coal Corp., which operates the mine through its subsidiary Bisti Fuels Co.

NTEC purchased the locomotives from GE for approximately $5 million, and it was included in the capital budget for the tribal enterprise, Moseley said.

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At the Navajo Mine, the new locomotives are replacing three electric locomotives that operated by an overhead wire system, called a catenary system, and were acquired by the previous mine owner, BHP Billiton, in the early 2000s.

Moseley said the decision to replace the three machines was because of their age and the fact that it was difficult to find replacement parts for them.

Another reason was the condition of the catenary system, which caused maintenance and safety problems, he said.

"The elimination of the catenary system will allow us to maintain the roadbed better, and we don’t have the safety issues associated with having 50,000 volts overhead," Moseley said.

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The old locomotives most likely will be salvaged, he said.

The first locomotive was delivered last week, and both machines came from a GE factory in Erie, Pa.

Both left Erie in late May on a cross-country delivery by railroad. They were then loaded on a truck in Thoreau for highway transport by Contractors Cargo Co.

During the drive on N.M. Highway 371, the locomotive was escorted by New Mexico State Police personnel, who also directed traffic.

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The locomotives are expected to go into service as soon as possible, and the change will not interrupt coal delivery, Moseley said.

Noel Lyn Smith covers the Navajo Nation for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4636.

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