Published March 16, 2017
NAVAJO MINE, NEW MEXICO – The sun broke through the clouds that hovered over the northern part of Navajo Mine late February, as students from Navajo Preparatory School worked in groups to gather seeds to help the continuation of reclamation efforts at Navajo Mine.
“They are gathering seeds from the Four Wing Salt Bush is the common name and genus is Atriplex from the family Chenopodiaceae. There are over 20 known species of Atriplex. The one we were collecting is a cross between Atriplex canescens and Atriplex obovata,” said Tim Ramsey, environmental specialist for Bisti Fuels. “The seeds will be sent to a lab and be mixed into a special seed blend designed specifically for Navajo Mine.”
The students were part of an annual activity at Navajo Mine. Rather than hiring a contractor to complete the seed collection, each year Navajo Mine selects a local non-profit organization or school organization to complete the work. The organizations are provided a monetary donation to show gratitude. This year, Navajo Preparatory School was selected and the students collected seeds on February 22.
The school had three different organizations participating; the sophomore class, the Venture Crew and the Gifted and Talented Club.
“I’m pleased to see local students come to Navajo Mine and experience some of the efforts we put forth to reclaim the land. Being Navajo owned, we have a duty to not only inform the Navajo people about how we help the Navajo Nation, but also to provide an opportunity for Navajo students to interact with the mine,” said Clark Moseley, Navajo Transitional Energy Company CEO, the company that owns Navajo Mine.
“We welcome the students from Navajo Preparatory and hope that this is the beginning of our efforts to become more accessible for students to learn about Navajo Mine and what we do here,” said Rick Ziegler, President of Bisti Fuels, the mine managing company at Navajo Mine.
Kevin Keeley, a science teacher at Navajo Prep, said he wanted students to gain an understanding about how coal mines perform reclamation including opening the student’s mind that coal mining isn’t as bad as its been portrayed in several media outlets.
“I wanted them to come out and see the land, see how it’s better than before,” he said.
The land started to be mined in the 1970s and now the land is being reclaimed to be suitable for livestock usage.
“It’s nice to pick seeds and give back to nature,” said Irvilinda Bahe, a sophomore. She methodically raked each branch individually with her hand pulling the seeds and filled a white five-gallon bucket.
In total, the students collected about 16 large bags of seeds.
Taylor Lii’bil Naghahi, a senior at Navajo Prep, said his father works a Kayenta Mine and he’s familiar with how land can look after reclamation.
“I enjoyed picking seeds with my friends,” he said, adding that the area looked like his home near Chilchinbito, Ariz. “Like how it (Navajo Mine) is at certain places, and how it looks like at my nali’s, it’s not that different,” he said.
Keeley said he hoped the students would also gain a sense of ownership of Navajo Mine since it’s Navajo-owned.
“Overall, I’m hoping that they would get the idea that this is ours,” Keeley said.