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Navajo Nation Settled Multi-Million Dollar Coal Royalty Case

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The Navajo Nation recently settled allegations with Peabody Energy that it conspired with its partners to cheat the tribe out of multi-millions in coal royalties, reported The Associated Press.

Peabody, the world’s largest private-sector coal-producing company, supplies the Navajo Generating Station, operated by the Salt River Project (SRP), in Page, Arizona.

The August 9 settlement closed a 1999 lawsuit filed in federal court against Peabody and its partners SRP and Southern California Edison. Peabody mines dot the Navajo and Hopi reservations in northeastern Arizona and feed the power plants that supply the two utility companies, reported the AP. The settlement resulted in the dismissal of a pending lawsuit against the utilities.

The tribe previously tried to amend the leases granted to Peabody about four decades ago in an effort to stake its claim on $600 million in lost coal royalties.

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"The nation is pleased that the issue is now behind us," said Navajo Department of Justice Attorney William Johnson. "The revenue that the companies provide will allow the nation to assist its elderly, provide scholarships for the students and provide services for the Navajo people."

Ending the litigation has allowed the parties to wipe the slate clean as they look toward joint opportunities in coal development, stated a Navajo Nation press release.

“The relationship between Peabody Energy, its partners, and the Navajo Nation has existed for more than 40 years,” said tribal spokesperson Johnny Naize, who was also a surveyor for the company in the 1970s, in the release. “Their operations have provided us jobs and revenue for area residents, including scholarships and other vocational training opportunities. We’ve had our differences, but I hope this settlement will create a new harmony that will benefit everyone involved.”

Last year, the Navajo tribal council approved a 10-year royalty re-opener with Peabody Energy focused on infrastructure development. The move resulted in the Many Mules waterline for Black Mesa residents, said Navajo Nation Council Delegate Jonathan Nez in a press release.

The Manymules water project, which received an Abandoned Mines Land grant for $300,000 in 2010, seeks to provide water service to area residents near the Black Mesa mines in the form of bathroom additions and plumbing installation for individual homes with new service to community and health facilities.