NTEC pushes on with obtaining bonds for Wyoming, Montana mines

Noel Lyn Smith
Farmington Daily Times

FARMINGTON — The Navajo Transitional Energy Company is continuing to work toward securing bonds for its mines in Wyoming and Montana, despite last week's setback by tribal leadership.

In a statement, the company said it "expects" to secure the necessary bonds to continue operations without delay for the Cordero Rojo and Antelope mines in northern Wyoming and the Spring Creek Mine in southern Montana.

NTEC had been seeking support from the Navajo Nation government for approximately $400 million to cover reclamation responsibilities and other financial obligations for the three coal mines it purchased in August from Cloud Peak Energy, which is amid bankruptcy proceedings in federal court.

NTEC is a tribal enterprise and it had been seeking the tribe's financial backing to secure bonds as part of the process to meet requirements in Wyoming and Montana for operating permits.

Last week, Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez ended the agreement for sureties the tribe issued a few years ago to NTEC. In that agreement, the tribe used its assets and partially waived its sovereign immunity to support NTEC's purchase of the Navajo Mine.

Nez cited the need to protect the tribe's financial portfolio as reason for terminating the general indemnity agreement, but left intact aspects pertaining to financial obligations for the Navajo Mine and Four Corners Power Plant.

In the company statement, NTEC said in its assessment of acquiring the properties from Cloud Peak Energy there was the possibility the Navajo Nation would not provide financial support.

"We have been actively working with a broker to secure bonding to assure proper reclamation is performed at all the mines without a Navajo Nation guarantee," the company said.

Additionally, the action would resolve concerns expressed by several tribal officials.

Three members of the Navajo Nation Council have sponsored bills to end the indemnity agreement since NTEC announced its purchase in August.

None of the delegates have pulled sponsorship as of Nov. 18.

"NTEC will ensure that proper bonding remains in place at all the mines at all times," the company stated.

Noel Lyn Smith covers the Navajo Nation for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4636 or by email at nsmith@daily-times.com.

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Coal mining