Saturday, 5 July 2008

Bad days at Black Mesa

Black Mesa, Arizona, home to the Diné (Navajo) and Hopi tribal reservations, is also home to massive mining operations run by Peabody Coal. In the past 30 years the mine at Black Mesa has contributed 325 million tons of carbon dioxide to atmospheric levels. Mining officials, with backing from the U.S. government, are responsible for capping local water supply (to supply mines) and harassing, threatening and in some cases assaulting Black Mesa residents, many who are elders resisting being driven from the land their ancestors have occupied for hundreds of years. Over 14000 Diné have already been "relocated".

Peabody Coal now wants to expand the mining operation at a potential environmental cost of 290 million tons of CO2 and an unfathomable personal cost to all who continue to live and fight for their lives on Black Mesa. In related news, area residents continue to face threats and intimidation at the hands of the U.S. government, and it is no coincidence that the afflicted live on what Peabody Coal clearly sees as “their profit”.

Diné grandmother resistor Pauline Whitesinger (above), 76, was recently served a notice by the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) officers and Hopi Tribal Rangers to immediately halt repairs being made to her ceremonial earth lodge (hogan) on penalty of fines and criminal charges. Officials also attempted to harass Pauline’s on-land supporter/sheepherder. Threats of intimidation accompanied the “notice” and have continued unabated. Support has been requested for Pauline Whitesinger in the form of phone calls, letters and on-land support to let the BIA and Hopi officials know that their unacceptable actions are under scrutiny.

The overarching story here, that of Peabody Coal, lies at the core of environmental and human devastation. Peabody’s proposed expansion would detonate coal on a daily basis polluting the air and affect health of miners and residents, deplete residential water supplies (already scarce in the desert thanks to mining), accelerate climate change and, perhaps most significantly, sacrifice human dignity and planetary health for corporate profit.

The Student Environmental Action Coalition (SEAC) has responded to the calls for action by mailing a statement denouncing the harassment of Pauline Whitesinger and also collecting signatures to add to a comment letter expressing opposition to the Peabody mine expansion. Similar actions have also been taken up by other national groups such as Black Mesa Indigenous Support, Student/Farmworker Alliance, and Black Mesa Water Coalition (heading up the call for action). Together, we can connect the dots of coal industry devastation from Appalachia to the mesas of Arizona, standing together in solidarity. -- SEAC 2 Jul 08. Here is what the Diné say:

Editor's notes

98% of US CO2 emissions come from the combustion of coal, oil and gas; with oil accounting for over 40%, coal 35% and natural gas 22% of energy related emissions. The United States alone produces about a quarter of global CO2. See world GHG diagram. On 23 June 08, climate scientist James Hansen accused executives of ExxonMobil, Peabody and other fossil fuel companies of deliberately spreading misinformation to delay climate action; he said they should be tried for crimes against humanity.

Letter for US citizens to sign
Judith Nies, "The Black Mesa Syndrome" history first appeared in Orion 1998. See Corpwatch, SEC, Hoover's and Coaltrans reports on Peabody Energy's political payoffs and multinational maneuvers. Also its history. In 2007 it posted $4.6B in sales, 10% of all U.S. electricity generation and 3% worldwide. One of the world's biggest polluters, owning over 9b tons of coal reserves in China, Canada, Australia, Venezuela, AZ, CO, IL, IN, NM, WV, KE, PA, the corporation lobbies hard for misnamed clean coal (which reduces sulfur, increases toxic mercury, and pollutes huge amounts of water), and (with their own specific impacts) coalbed methane and liquid coal methods. Peabody has a century-long history of union-busting, black lung, and tampering with safety data. Other coal majors are Arch, CONSOL, Massey, Kennecott, RAG, Vulcan and TXU.
Interfaith report 2006 on Peabody union-busting since 1995. Union website, including Peabody CEO Greg Boyce's refusal of shareholder calls for corporate transparency and annual elections. Irl Engelhardt, the previous CEO, continues as the Chairman of the Board of Directors. His annual earnings are 94 times those of the average miner.
NDRC video exposing the pollution impacts of liquid coal.

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