"We believe from Dine CARE that BHP is wanting to dump this mine on the unsuspecting Navajo Nation, because this is the first time in 50 years there will be an environmental assessment of everything," she said. "They're afraid, and they want to dump it before that comes up."

Craig Moyer, whose law firm was hired by the Navajo Nation to study the potential purchase of the mine, said the facilities at the Navajo Mine are old but well maintained. He sought to assure lawmakers that coal would remain a viable source of energy, though its use would eventually decline.

"This is likely to be one of the last coal plants out there," he said.

BHP will run the mine until 2016, when its agreement to supply coal to the power plant is set to expire. Moyer said final remediation costs will be covered by the plant's owners.

Tribal lawmakers saw the formation of the company to run a mine as an opportunity to gain control of resources on the reservation and ensure that the jobs and revenue that come with them are protected. The mine's coal has generated more than $40 million for the Navajo Nation, Shelly said.

Navajo Council Delegate Dwight Witherspoon said he is as concerned about the use of fossil fuels and their impact on the world and the climate. But he said, "for us to engage in the transition to more efficient or renewable type of energies, this provides us essentially with revenue to assist us in that transition."

Copyright 2011 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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