Bisti Fuels Co. will serve as the new operator for Navajo Mine in Farmington.
Navajo Transitional Energy Co. made the announcement late Wednesday. Bisti Fuels is a subsidiary of Dallas-based North American Coal Corp.
“We are proud to bring in an experienced coal mining company to Navajo Mine,” said Clark Moseley, chief executive of Navajo Transitional Energy Co. “Given the unique structure of Navajo Mine, we believe that North American Coal is the best fit to meet our contractual duties with Four Corners Power Plant”
The news comes as coal mines across the nation are under scrutiny by the Obama administration. Navajo Mine – a business enterprise of the Navajo Nation – has been largely spared, with an announcement in July that the New Mexico power plant and its companion coal mine was granted an expansion by federal officials. Approval came with a 25-year lease extension.
The Navajo Mine exists for the sole purpose of feeding the Four Corners Power Plant.
Navajo Transitional Energy Company and Bisti Fuels signed a 15-year contract for Bisti to provide mining services for NTEC. The transition will begin in January.
“This ensures the Navajo Nation will continue to receive coal royalties and revenues for the coming years,” Moseley said.
Operations provided $37 million in royalty and tax payments to the Navajo Nation last year. Navajo Mine employs about 320 people.
The current operator, BHP Billiton, is scheduled to exit the mine as the contract miner at the end of 2016.
NTEC expects to mine an estimated 6 million tons of coal per year over the length of the contract.
“This is a move that shows self-determination in action,” said Steve Gundersen, NTEC board chairman. “NTEC was created by our Navajo Nation, and now we are making strides that demonstrate both our strength and our resilience as Navajo people.”