Black Mesa Water Coalition

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BMWC History

On the Black Mesa area on the Navajo Nation.

Black Mesa Water Coaltion History

Black Mesa is designated a female mountain in the Navajo culture and is a stronghold for the Navajo language, culture, ceremonies and teachings. It is also home to two coalmines operated by Peabody Coal Company: the Black Mesa Mine and the Kayenta Mine. Coal from the Black Mesa Mine was mixed with water from the Navajo Aquifer – sole source of drinking water in the region – and slurried through a 273 mile long pipeline to the Mojave Generating Station (MGS) in Laughlin, Nevada. MGS provided cheap electricity for the major southwestern cities including Las Vegas, Los Angeles, and Phoenix for nearly 40 years before being shut down in 2006. The Kayenta Mine provides coal to the Navajo Generating Station (NGS) located in Page, Arizona. NGS’ primary job is to pump water from northern Arizona to central and southern Arizona through the Central Arizona Project (CAP). NGS is also the only coal-fired power plant in the country that is majority owned by the federal government through the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation.

These mines are part of a legacy started in the early 1920s to ensure the Navajo Nation’s economic dependence on fossil fuel development. Despite promises that uranium, oil, gas, and coal leases would bring in millions of dollars in royalties and create thousands of jobs, a visit to the reservation reveals a completely different reality. The Navajo Nation’s unemployment rate hovers around 54% and the population’s average income is $7,500/year. 18,000 Navajo households live without electricity, accounting for 75% of all un-electrified homes in the U.S. Furthermore, the fossil fuel economy has left a legacy of polluted air and land, contaminated and depleted water, and various health ailments. Climate change is another concern that looms on the horizon, promising drastic changes in ecosystems and weather patterns. Most importantly, in teaching us to ignore our traditional teachings to love, respect, and protect Mother Earth, our current fossil fuel based economy has made us dependent on our own cultural destruction.