Environmental Consequences of Coal Mining in the Black Mesa Complex

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Coal mining in the United States is a major industry. In 2012, the coal mining industry employed nearly 90,000 people [1]. The Black Mesa Complex in Northern Arizona consists of two seperate coal mines, the Kayenta mine and the Black Mesa coal mines. Both mines are owned and operated by Peabody Western Coal Company (PWCC). The mines are located 10 miles southwest of Kayenta, AZ. The Kayenta mine is 40,000 acres (62.5 square miles), employs 430 workers [2], and is the 27th largest mine in the United States, producing nearly 7.5 million short tons of coal per year [1]. The Black Mesa mine is located a few miles to the west of the Kayenta Mine. Operations at the Black Mesa coal mine haulted in 2005 when a court order shut down the powerplant that the coal from the mine fed. While the mine was active it produced 5 million tons of coal per year [3] and employed 360 workers [4].
Although coal mining is important to local and global economies, there are many environmental impacts of both the mining and use of coal that must be considered. Actions can be taken to mitigate these environmental impacts but it is up to scientists to identify these potential problems and put plans into action before it is too late.
Environmental Setting and Vegetation
Peabody Western Coal Company’s Kayenta coal mine is located on the northeastern portion of Black Mesa (a mountainous mesa on the Colorado Plateau in Northern Arizona). Elevations range from 6,600’ to 7,200’. Precipitation ranges from 7” to (“ per year with temperatures from -15oF to 100oF. The area is characterized by gentle to steep rolling hills dissected by deep valleys. The geology is dominated by scoreia, interbedded sandstones, and shale. Topsoil is very deep in the valle...

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...es, "Navajo Generating Station and Kayenta Mine: An Economic Impact Study," Arizona State University, 2012.
[3] W. Johns, Diverse Coalition of Tribal and Conservation Groups Appeal Peabody's Illegal Permit for Black Mesa Coal Mine, Center for Biological Diversity, 2009.
[4] Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement, "Proposed Permit Application, Black Mesa-Kayenta Mine, Navajo and Hopi Indian Reservations, Arizona," U.S. Department of the Interior, Denver, CO, 1990.
[5] E. Bronston, "Geographic Information Systems at Peabody Western Coal Company's Black Mesa Complex," in Geospatial Conference, 2004.
[6] Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement, "Black Mesa Project Final Environmental Impact Statement," U.S. Deparment of the Interior, Washington DC, 2008.
[7] M. Squillace, The Strip Mining Handbook, Environmental Policy Institute, 1990.

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