Last week, BHP Billiton announced that we have entered into a memorandum of understanding to pursue a transaction that, if finalized, would transition the ownership of Navajo Mine to a Navajo Nation-owned company. In response to this announcement, Dan Randolph wrote a column that posed some valid questions around corporate responsibility (Herald, Dec. 20).
Rather than simply allow the Navajo Mine to be closed in 2016, BHP Billiton decided to pursue discussions that will allow the Navajo Mine to continue to operate for all stakeholders that depend on it.
This will preserve 800 high-paying jobs for the community until 2031, secure ongoing business and employment for a large base of local vendors and contractors that support the operations, and retain the direct support our operations provide the Navajo Nation and local community programs. Preserving these benefits for our employees, support companies, and communities was a corporate responsibility that drove this decision.
Randolph also points out that Navajo Mine is currently in an Environmental Impact Statement process. BHP Billiton advocated that the EIS needed to be done and has supported the process. To demonstrate our commitment, we have provided assurances to the federal agencies and the Navajo Nation that we will see the EIS process through.
BHP Billiton has committed that we will operate Navajo Mine for the Navajo Nation until July 2016. As part of this commitment, we will continue to allocate the resources required to support completion of the EIS. We believe it is essential that all impacts of the operation are properly assessed.
There are different views on what corporate responsibility entails. BHP Billiton has core values that are outlined in our charter and this is the filter through which we pass all decisions. The first value listed is sustainability. The value that we place on sustainability led us to a decision to work with the primary stakeholder of Navajo Mine on a way to ensure the operation continues for 15 more years. We believe this was BHP Billiton’s responsibility to the stakeholders of Navajo Mine.
Pat Risner, president, BHP Billiton New Mexico Coal