In a file photo dated Nov. 30, 2010, a large crane is seen operating at the Navajo Mine in Fruitland.
In a file photo dated Nov. 30, 2010, a large crane is seen operating at the Navajo Mine in Fruitland. (Daily Times File Photo)
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Shiprock — Chapter members here tabled a resolution that would adopt the position of a Navajo environmental group that opposes the Nation's proposed purchase of Navajo Mine.

The resolution was tabled Sunday after a motion by chapter member Fannie Atcitty who said its language was "contradicting."

Atcitty explained that the resolution's headline called on "the Navajo Nation Council to reject the purchase" of the mine from BHP Billion New Mexico Coal Co. but later instructs the Navajo Nation Council to "consider" the position taken by the chapter.

Members voted 34 in favor to table the measure, it now moves to the Oct. 14 agenda.

Nineteen members opposed the tabling and six members abstained from casting a vote.

Prior to the vote, Shiprock Chapter president Duane "Chili" Yazzie allowed 10 minutes each for Diné CARE and BHP Billiton New Mexico Coal Co. representatives to present their points of view on the resolution.

Diné CARE member Lorraine Clauschee was one of four members to address the audience.

"I ask the people in Window Rock, the powers that be, to exercise wisdom in their decision of purchasing Navajo Mine," Clauschee said. "Whatever decision that will be ... will affect all Navajo citizens."

She said the tribe has not explained what funding would be used to purchase the mine and she said that its continued operation goes against Navajo culture and the natural law given by the Holy People.

Other Diné CARE members zeroed in on the issues of health and the environment.

Norman Benally, BHP Billiton spokesman, said emissions from the Four Corners Power Plant, which receives its coal solely from Navajo Mine, would be significantly reduced after units 1, 2 and 3 are shutdown.

He also said the mine's owners continually made efforts to meet one-to-one with Diné CARE to hear their concerns and will continue to extend that invitation.

Before the resolution was discussed, Yazzie set some ground rules, which included voting immediately after presentations concluded.

When it came time to vote, some audience members who wanted to discuss the resolution and were denied.

"It's not fair not to talk," a woman said from the audience.

Some audience members wanted to hear from council delegate Russell Begaye, who represents Shiprock, and Navajo Nation Attorney General Harrison Tsosie, who was in attendance.

After the meeting, Begaye said he would support purchasing the mine if the 51,000 acre feet of water used yearly by BHP, along with the water rights given to BHP, revert back to the Navajo Nation after the mine ceases operation.

Later, Yazzie explained that he allowed Atcitty to speak because her concern addressed a technicality of the resolution's language and she was not presenting either a pro or con stance.

With the resolution now tabled, Diné CARE can rewrite its language to be consistent and present it to the chapter membership again.

Pat Risner, asset president for New Mexico Coal Co., said after the measure was tabled that the company's interest continues to be preserving jobs at the mine and they look forward to continuing to engage with the community and with Diné CARE.

"We're pleased that they haven't taken a step to oppose the transaction. We look forward to continuing to engage with the communities," Risner said.

Last week, Upper Fruitland Chapter approved a resolution supporting the tribe's purchase of the mine.

So far it is the only chapter within the mine's region to formally issue a position on the transaction.

Noel Lyn Smith covers the Navajo Nation for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4636. Follow her @nsmithdt on Twitter.