During September, the reclamation of BHP Billiton’s La Plata mine earned national acknowledgment from the U.S. Department of the Interior. A Native American Healer, Richard Redhouse, conducted a traditional Blessing Way Ceremony to express appreciation to Mother Earth and to re-harmonize the reclaimed land.

“We are proud of the technical success of this reclamation project and the awards it has received,” said Norman Benally, manager human resources and external affairs, BHP Billiton New Mexico Coal. “Now we ask that the spirit of this special place help guide its continued growth into a thriving natural habitat.”

A Blessing Way Ceremony focuses on the cleansing and re-harmonizing of the physical, emotional, mental and spiritual well being of an individual. In this Ceremony, offerings in the form of prayers and spiritual herbs will be given to Mother Earth for the purpose of bringing forth life that will result in the restoration of the natural habitat.

“I am happy to ask our Creator to bless this land and maintain harmony as it grows. Fortunately, the land’s reformation and development has been greatly aided by the work of BHP Billiton,” said Redhouse.

Traditional Native Healers regularly conduct Ceremonies for safety blessings at BHP Billiton’s operational mines, where 63% of the workforce is Navajo. Redhouse was asked to perform the La Plata Blessing Way Ceremony because active restoration activities are now complete on the site. Wildlife has returned and vegetation has taken root. At one time, millions of tons of coal were transferred to supply the San Juan Generating Station. Coal production ceased in December 2002 when full-time reclamation of the 2,066 acre mine site began.

“This blessing is consistent with our company’s respect for our host communities and value in upholding the cultural heritage of our employees,” said Benally. “In fact, the entire story of La Plata’s landmark reclamation—from the first seeding to this proper prayer—brings to life BHP Billiton’s philosophy of sustainable development.”