By Greg Johnson, Gillette News Record Via Wyoming News Exchange
GILLETTE — Despite pushback from the Navajo Nation, Navajo Transitional Energy Co. is committed to being the nation’s third-largest coal producer and will continue to operate three Powder River Basin mines. The company bought the Antelope and Cordero Rojo mines in Wyoming and Spring Creek mine in Montana at Cloud Peak Energy Corp.’s bankruptcy auction in August. Since being named the winning bidder, the independent company owned by the Navajo Nation has been under fire from some in the tribe. NTEC already owns and operates the Navajo Mine and a coal-fired power plant in New Mexico, but buying Cloud Peak’s assets, including the nation’s third-largest coal mine in Antelope, goes against the overall philosophy of the tribe, says Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez and Vice President Myron Lizer.
“NTEC should focus more resources into transitioning their energy portfolio and develop renewable energy for the Navajo Nation,” Lizer said in a Tuesday press release announcing the nation’s decision to not financially back NTEC’s reclamation bonding for the Powder River Basin mines.
NTEC also negotiated for and bought the Cloud Peak mines without consulting with the Navajo Nation leadership, Nez and Lizer said.
“We will not support initiatives that attempt to circumvent or undermine the laws and policies of our Nation,” Nez said. In a Wednesday afternoon press conference in response to the Navajo Nation’s decision to not back NTEC financially, company spokesman Steve Grey said the move does not scuttle the deal and that NTEC has acted in the interests of the nation.“We always listen to what the Navajo people say,” Grey said. “Always, always. We have always told the Nation we would have a diverse portfolio, but at the same time, that portfolio has to generate revenue. Mining and power generation have a very high return on investment and a high amount of revenue.”