Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez says the tribe will not financially back the bonds a tribal energy company needs for a trio of newly acquired coal mines off the reservation. The Navajo Transitional Energy Company recently bought Montana's largest coal mine and two others in Wyoming at auction after Cloud Peak Energy declared bankruptcy.
The three mines employ hundreds of people. State officials in Montana say the mines can keep operating for now because reclamation bonds posted by Cloud Peak remain in place. The bonds are estimated at more than $370 million.
Navajo President Nez says he's canceled agreements the tribal company might rely on to seek the Navajo Nation's financial backing for the bonds. Navajo Nation lawmakers have been considering legislation to do the same.
A Navajo energy company was created in 2013 to buy a coal mine in New Mexico on the reservation. The firm also owns a 7 percent stake in the nearby Four Corners Power Plant. While it was organized under the tribal government, it operates somewhat independently.
Nez says the legal documents creating the company gave the tribe’s executive branch unilateral authority to administer what are known as general indemnity agreements. He says the bonds in place for the Navajo Mine and the Four Corners power plant won’t be affected by his decision regarding the mining operations in Montana and Wyoming.