The EA considered a reasonable range of alternatives to the proposed action, discussed the potential environmental effects of the proposed action and provided sufficient evidence and analysis for the development of a finding of no significant impact (FONSI). Based upon OSM’s review of the EA it has been determined the proposed action is not a major federal action that will have a significant effect on the quality of the human environment individually or cumulatively with other actions within the region. The permit allows mining to continue through July 6, 2015, but does not include any revisions to the operations or mining plan, nor additional mining areas.

Operated by Peabody Western Coal Co., the Kayenta mine is the dedicated coal source to the Navajo power plant operated by the Salt River Project. According to SNL Energy, the 2,250 mw Navajo energy station received almost 5.7 million tons of coal from Kayenta through the first three quarters of 2011. MSHA reported that in 2010, Kayenta mined almost 7.8 million tons. Coal produced from the Kayenta mine is transported approximately 83 miles to the Navajo Generating Station near Page, Ariz., via an electric railroad. The Navajo Generating Station consumes 7 to 8 million tons of coal annually.

In its review, the OSM determined that wastewater from the mine would not harm local drinking water supplies and that there was “no credible evidence” that the coal company’s continued pumping of water from a local aquifer “has created adverse contamination, diminution or interruption of this source of water.” Predictably, the Sierra Club has stated it is considering appealing the OSM’s decision.

The Kayenta Complex encompasses an area of 65,387 acres and is located in northeastern Arizona on Black Mesa, southwest of Kayenta, Ariz. The Navajo Nation has exclusive surface and mineral interests for 24,858 acres in the northern portion of the Kayenta Complex. In the remaining 40,529 acres of the Kayenta Complex, the Hopi Tribe and Navajo Nation have joint and equal interests in the mineral resources that underlie the land surface.

Located within the boundaries of the Hopi Tribe and Navajo Nation reservations, the Kayenta mine has operated since 1973. Kayenta is the only operating portion of the Kayenta mine complex. The adjacent Black Mesa mine was closed several years ago following years of environmental opposition culminating in the shutdown of the power plant the mine served.