The Nation began exploring the possibility of acquiring BNCC in October after it became apparent that BHP was not interested in operating the mine beyond 2016. The Navajo Council approved $750,000 to hire several firms to assist in the transaction. The MoU is the first step in ensuring the continued operation of the Navajo mine, where 433 individuals are employed full-time—of which, 85% are Native American. As part of the understanding, the Navajo Nation will continue to provide coal to the Four Corners power plant for 15 years beginning in 2016.

“When it comes to the Navajo Nation’s economy, it became necessary for us to make this move toward complete ownership in order to prevent a drastic loss in revenue,” Navajo Nation Council Speaker Johnny Naize said in a letter to Navajo personnel employed at the mine. Approximately 32% of the Nation’s general fund revenue derives from current revenue from BNCC royalties and taxes.