FARMINGTON, N.M. — Members of the Navajo Nation Council tabled a proposal
that would let disputes over a northwestern New Mexico coal mine that’s being
bought on behalf of the nation be settled in state courts rather than tribal
The Farmington Daily Times reports that the decision to
table the proposal Monday stemmed from discussion among Council delegates during
the meeting in Window Rock over whether it required a super majority for
passage. Delegates will revisit the Navajo Mine proposal Friday.
Zurich American Insurance Company is asking the tribe to waive its sovereign
immunity and settle any arbitration in New Mexico and Arizona courts before it
and another company issue $500 million in bonds and insurances to a tribal
company set up to purchase the mine.
Council Delegate LoRenzo Bates, sponsor of the bill, said the request was made
by Zurich because the tribal company is a new enterprise and it doesn’t have
assets or a proven track record. “It does not change the intent of what we as
Council voted on, to become a player in the energy field,” Bates said.
Earlier on Monday, two tribal committees endorsed the legislation.
During a committee hearing, Delegate Russell Begaye criticized the proposal for
eliminating Navajo courts, which he said have been recognized throughout the
county. “I believe our court _ Navajo Nation court _ has full capability to do
this type of action,” Begaye said.
He added that when companies conduct business in foreign countries, disputes
are handled in that country’s courts. “This mine is on our land, and these are
guests to the nation,” he said.
Before one of the committees was to take a vote, Shiprock Chapter President
Duane “Chili” Yazzie stood up and spoke from an area reserved for public
Several attempts were made to explain to Yazzie that the public cannot address
the delegates and to get him to return to his seat.
Yazzie continued to address the committee, prompting a response from a Navajo
Nation police officer.
Yazzie said the Council didn’t provide the Navajo people the opportunity to
learn about the mine purchase deal. He said delegates have spent millions of
dollars on the mine acquisition without any approval by the Navajo people.
Information from: The Daily Times, http://www.daily-times.com