Shawn Smith shows the changes to Table Mesa Rd. in the southern portion of Navajo Mine. The road was realigned for safer passage for community members.
Published June 29, 2019
MINE, N.M. — The local community next to Navajo Mine gained access to an improved and safer community road last month as a result of the improved reclamation project for the southern portion of Navajo Mine.
“The Table Mesa Road has been widened and realigned for safer travel for community members that use the road. We added this project which goes above and beyond basic regulatory standards,” said Clark Moseley, NTEC CEO.
Reclamation is the process used to restore the mined portions of a surface mine, like the Navajo Mine, to a condition equivalent to the land as it existed prior to mining operations. A section of Area 3 on Navajo Mine, the Mason Pit, has been in the process of reclamation for several years. Immediately adjacent to the Mason Pit reclamation area is the Table Mesa Rd. The road used to have a steep climb, as well as poor drainage, making travel challenging in inclement weather. But starting in May 2019, the road was realigned, widened from 10 to 23 feet and raised for better drainage.
“One of the projects we realized we had to address was how to improve the community’s access through Area 3. The road had challenges for local residents when it rained. For nearby community members, this road is their only outlet to gather supplies and groceries. Once we realized that, we made this road a priority,” Moseley said. The road is outside the required reclamation area but NTEC and Bisti used the reclamation process and equipment as the perfect opportunity to improve the road for area residents.
The other part of the project was tackling the reclamation efforts of the Mason Pit area itself. When NTEC purchased Navajo Mine, the area was being reclaimed with older reclamation standards. However, NTEC voluntarily decided to adopt high reclamation standards than required by law. Specifically, NTEC designed the reclamation plan utilizing the latest geo-fluvial technology.
Geo-fluvial technology designs reclaimed land to mimic natural watershed drainage patterns. Given that Navajo Mine is in a high desert climate, heavy rains can cause massive erosion. To prevent erosion, geo-fluvial designs allows for better and more natural water flow and encourages natural vegetation growth.
“We know the land will be returned to the Navajo people when we are done mining. This means that we should reclaim the land to the best standards available. Reworking this area used more resources, but we will restore the land to a better condition for grazing than it was before the area was mined,” Moseley said.
According to Navajo Mine data, nearly 60 percent of the land prior to mining was originally classified as “badlands,” the termed used to describe land that does not have any vegetation. Now, using the new standards, when teams from Bisti Fuels perform reclamation on mined lands, the land is actually improved to more than 95 percent grazing land.
“Our responsibility is to make as much reclaimed land as possible grazable for livestock. That is what the community originally wanted when Navajo Mine opened in 1963, so our reclamation is to those standards,” Moseley added.