Coal

My first trip to Black Mesa was on the ground.  I knew I would be able to view it from the air but I wanted to see what kind of access I could have on the ground.  This mine is also known as Kayenta, there is a town nearby with the same name.  Peabody Coal Company began strip mine operations in 1968.  It is the largest strip mine in the United States.  It was shut for several years from 2006 to 2008 because of depletion of the water table underneath the mesa, but mining resumed as in the last days of the Bush administration and ordinance was passed to allow for the reopening of one of the two strip mines.  These mines feed the Navajo Plant in Page, which I recently showed work from on the blog, and the now shut Mohave Plant in Laughlin, NV.

An even safer mine might be shut?

The Mohave Plant required the construction of a 273 mile slurry pipeline so coal could be shipped to the plant.  Pulverized Coal would be mixed with water to make slurry which would then in turn be shipped to the plant.  Upon receiving the slurry the coal is filtered from the water out and disposed of.  There is no way for the slurried coal water to be reclaimed or reused.  It is waste and disposed of as such.  Now that the Mohave plant has shut the amount of water usage has decreased but as with an energy production, much with agricultural production, water is the lifeline.  So with the re-opening of the plant the water is again being used and the aquifer depleted.

Here a conveyor starts the shipment of mined coal to a location off the mesa.

The complete closure of the mine would stop the depletion of the water table but it would also put anywhere from 600 to 800 Navajo out of work in a region where there are hardly any well-paid, skilled jobs.  Because of this the mine is a contentious issue.

The terminus of the coal conveyor near Federal Highway 160

The coal conveyor above still operates and ships coal to the coal silo where coal is stored.  It is now shipped via Railroad to the Navajo plant in Page, NV.  In the next few days I’ll post some of what I saw from the air.  What is supposed to be a “small” operation that supports only the Navajo Plant looked to my eyes to be large, expansive and larger than expected.

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