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Spring Creek Mine suspends operations

Posted at 10:39 AM, Oct 24, 2019
and last updated 2019-10-24 20:31:24-04

The Navajo Transitional Energy Company (NTEC) was expecting to take possession and operate the Spring Creek Mine in southeast Montana on Wednesday, but an impasse with the Montana Department of Environmental Quality over what NTEC claims are issues with sovereign immunity has shut down the mine putting all employees out of work.

In a press release the new owners of the mine say they hope to work out the issue.

“We are shocked and disappointed that the State is taking this position and putting the future of Spring Creek at risk”, said Tim McLaughlin, Chairman of NTEC. “We have done everything in our power to ensure the State that we will operate under their laws, but we simply cannot consent to a full waiver of the rights preserved in our treaties—to do so would put the foundations of Indian Country at great risk.”

The Navajo Transitional Energy Company recently purchased the Powder River coal assets of Cloud Peak Energy including the Spring Creek Mine in Montana and the Corero Rojo and Antelope Mines in Wyoming. The mines in Wyoming are operating today.

NTEC claims the Montana DEQ demanded a full and complete waiver of sovereign immunity.

NTEC reports it will agree to a partial waiver allowing the company to be regulated by Montana under any and all state laws.

According to the press release, Carlson Goes Ahead, Vice Chairman of the Crow Tribe of Indians wrote a letter to Governor Bullock requesting that “…the State of Montana maintain consistency in its relations amongst tribes and extend NTEC the same comity and respect it has shown to tribal nations located within the state.”

Montana DEQ believes it has tried to find a resolution for a proper transfer of operation but they ran out of time of finishing the waiver language. DEQ Public Policy Director Rebecca Harbage says whoever takes over a coal mine in Montana they need to be accountable for the operation. She added dealing with sovereign nation status is a new issue for DEQ.