Getting ready for winter: Free coal program at Navajo Mine starts season
NENAHNEZAD — Loaders duSearch Assets g into piles of coal during opening day of the Community Heating Resource Program on Oct. 13 at Navajo Mine.
The seasonal program is provided by mine owners and operators, Navajo Transitional Energy Company, to provide free coal, which is among the sources of heat tribal members use during winter.
Herman D. Juan obtained a ticket from his chapter of Lake Valley and waited in the cab of his Dodge Ram truck for NTEC employees to load coal.
"We've always burned coal. It's one of those things we try to get it taken care of while there's still good weather. Haul wood too," Juan said.
According to NTEC, the program had 10,221 visitors during the 2020-2021 season. The season before had 5,901 visitors.
Andy Hawkins, community relations senior manager with NTEC, explained the company distributes tickets for coal to 109 chapters. There is one chapter that does not participate in the program because of the long distance to the mine.
From there, the chapters decide how to dispense tickets to residents, who drive to the coal yard for service.
"The chapter knows better than we do – first of all, who uses coal, and who has the greatest need. This is us helping them serve their community," Hawkins said.
While most participants come from chapters in the Northern Agency, program personnel continue efforts to increase interest from the Central and Western agencies.
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One way they are doing this is by making bulk deliveries of coal to chapters throughout the season.
Hawkins said chapters can request the free delivery, which is convenient for residents.
"We generally have about a 48-hour turnaround from the time they call to the time we make a delivery," he said.
The first bulk deliveries on Oct. 13 were to Casamero Lake in the Eastern Agency and to Nazlini Chapter in Arizona.
This season started slightly earlier to help tribal members prepare for winter.
Contact between participants and mine employees is at a minimum and face masks are required due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The coal yard is open Wednesday through Saturday from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.
The season will end on March 26, 2022. During that month, the yard is open from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Friday and Saturday.
For more information about the program, call 505-258-7782. The number is staffed from 6 a.m. to 5 p.m. and it can also receive text messages.
Tiis Tsoh Sikaad resident Daniel Barber is a first-time participant and was among those in line when the coal yard opened on Oct. 13.
"I called the chapter house and they told me about it. I thought I'd see how it goes over here," Barber said.
In previous winters, he picked up coal from the mine near Hesperus, Colorado. Since Navajo Mine is closer to his home in Burnham, he said he thinks he will go there more often.
After Barber's trailer was filled with coal, he left the yard to start the journey back home.
There were 123 community members served on opening day, Hawkins said on Oct. 14.
Noel Lyn Smith covers the Navajo Nation for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4636 or by email at email@example.com.