Navajo Mine, Supplying Coal for Energy Needs of Southwest
James T. Curry
By 1970 Utah Construction & Mining Co.'s Navajo Mine will be the largest coal mine in the United States, producing about 8.5 million tons of power-plant fuel each year. While the existence of coal in the San Juan basin of northwestern New Mexico has been known for many years, it has been only in the recent decade, with the beginning of Utah Construction & Mining Co.'s search for steam coal reserves in the Southwest, that the potential of these vast coal fields has been realized.
In the early 1950s Utah obtained a prospecting permit from the Navajo Tribe to prospect for coal in the Four Corners area of New Mexico. In subsequent years these efforts led to the receipt of a mining lease containing approximately 31,000 acres, which contain in excess of 1.1 billion tons of strippable coal. Later, with the receipt of certain water rights, Utah was in a position to attract power companies to the Four Corners area with the establishment of mine-mouth plants to take advantage of the low cost fuel supply.
With operations since 1963 at a level of approximately 2.5 million tons per year, the Navajo Mine operation has been equipped with some of the larger, high capacity materials handling equipment available. Now in the process of increasing this level of production almost four-fold, mining and coal preparation facilities are currently in the process of "gearing up" to meet the increased demand.
Yet even with the increased production level of 1970, less than one-half of the total Navajo Mine coal reserves will be committed to the long-term operation of existing power plants. Therefore, efforts are continuing for the future development of the mine to increase further its role as a major source in energy for the needs of the Southwest.
AAPG Search and Discovery Article #91051©2012 AAPG Rocky Mountain Section Meeting, Albuquerque, New Mexico, 23-26 February 1969