FARMINGTON — BHP Billiton donated $390,000 to 38 local nonprofit groups on Friday, even as the company faces greater uncertainty in its future.

The donations were announced at a luncheon Friday held at the Courtyard By Marriott.

"BHP Billiton is honored to support these outstanding community organizations," BHP Billiton New Mexico Coal asset president Pat Risner said in a prepared statement. "As members of the communities where we operate, our company looks forward to these awards as the funding goes directly to programs that give assistance and hope to our families, friends and neighbors in the Four Corners region."

The donations went to everything from a new playground and picnic area at Aztec Boys and Girls Club to transportation for Northwest New Mexico Seniors. BHP Billiton does not disclose the amounts individual organizations receive.

Rick Quevedo, executive director of Desert View Family Counseling, said his organization will use the donation to help fund an adolescent substance abuse program.

Quevedo said the donation supplements government grants, which often come with strings attached. With the BHP Billiton donation, "we can spend it however we want," Quevedo said.

Navajo United Methodist Center, a shelter for women and children, was also among the recipients. Executive Director Susan Kimbler said BHP Billiton is generous to nonprofit groups.

"They give so much money, it's unbelievable," she said.

BHP Billiton operates Navajo Mine and San Juan Mine west of Farmington, and employs more than 1,000 local workers.


Risner noted the donations come as BHP Billiton expects to cut 30 percent of its local workforce due to reduced demand from San Juan County's two coal-fired power plants.

"Our customers are making some quite important decisions that will affect us," Risner said.

The company is negotiating to extend its coal contracts at both power plants.

"The next year of two is going to really determine our long-term future," he said.

BHP Billiton typically holds the charitable event in October, but delayed it this year. Risner said holding the event in December seemed fitting. "The work many of you do is consistent with the holiday spirit," he said.

Friday's event came early in Risner's tenure as president of BHP Billiton's operations in New Mexico. A 20-year veteran of the company, Risner previously served as general manager at Navajo Mine.

"We truly see these financial contributions as an investment," Risner said. "As a major employer in San Juan County, our business provides direct benefits to our employees, but through our Community Investment Fund awards we have an opportunity to benefit people in the wider community in a meaningful way each year."