Water Crisis in the West Leaves Native American Communities and Wildlife Endangered

#Judith Nies' 'Unreal City' Reveals Tragic Story of Coal Mining and Water Depletion on Navajo and Hopi Lands

In her book "Unreal City: Las Vegas, Black Mesa, and the Fate of the West," author Judith Nies reveals the troubling story of how coal mining operations on Black Mesa, situated on Navajo and Hopi lands in Arizona, led to devastating consequences for both the native communities and the environment. The largest untouched coal reserve in the US became the target of extensive mining operations by Peabody Coal, which strip-mined the land to fuel two Bechtel-built power plants.

The consequences of these operations include the depletion of scarce water resources, environmental pollution, and a wave of health issues among the Navajo and Hopi communities. Nies highlights the ongoing fight for sovereignty and the environment, portraying a story of exploitation and the ongoing fight for sovereignty and environmental preservation. This book is a powerful call to action to address the environmental crisis and protect the rights of indigenous peoples.

Background

The Black Mesa basin spans 270,000 acres across the Navajo and Hopi reservations in Arizona. The coal deposits of Black Mesa were discovered in 1861, and since then, sporadic mining operations have been in existence. The Black Mesa Coal Field is one of the 15 largest coal fields in the US and contains the largest reserve of low-sulfur, sub-bituminous coal.

The Tragedy

The peak of coal mining in Black Mesa occurred in the 1970s and 1980s when mining operations were accelerated to meet the growing demand for energy. To transport the mined coal, a 273-mile long pipeline was built to send the coal-water slurry to distant power plants. This pipeline was a monstrous waste of the Black Mesa aquifer, an aquifer created in the ice age that will never be refilled by rainfall.

The coal mining and slurry operations resulted in the depletion of groundwater, which dried up many Navajo wells. The remaining water was toxic and contaminated with sulfur, mercury, and heavy metals leached from the coal. Allegations of improper disposal of coal mining waste and the depletion of scarce water resources have caused widespread concern.

The consequences of these operations have led to a wave of health issues, including lung cancer and kidney disease, affecting the Navajo and Hopi communities. The depleted and contaminated water sources have also had a devastating impact on wildlife and biodiversity in the area.

Justice

In the face of these environmental concerns and the health and safety of their communities, the Navajo and Hopi peoples have resisted the coal mining operations. They have protested the depletion of their water sources, the contamination of their lands, and the threat to their way of life. Despite these protests, the federal government and coal companies have continued to exploit the Black Mesa coal field.

Today, the consequences of these actions are apparent, and the Navajo and Hopi communities are left to deal with the aftermath. The struggle for sovereignty and the environment continues, and Nies' book serves as a powerful reminder of the importance of protecting the rights and environments of indigenous peoples.

Judith Nies' "Unreal City: Las Vegas, Black Mesa, and the Fate of the West" is a powerful call to action to address the environmental crisis and protect the rights of indigenous peoples. Her revealing account of the coal mining operations on Black Mesa highlights the ongoing struggle for sovereignty and the environment and serves as a reminder of the importance of protecting our planet and its inhabitants.

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