National Geographic : 1972 Dec
Ecological debate comes to Navajo country as traditional reverence for the land yields to economic pressures. Vast coal deposits on the reservation fuel plants that generate power for much of the Southwest and southern California. But despite the financial benefits they reap, some Indians lament the scarring of the land. As one said, "They can never put it back the way it was." Attuned to public opinion, mining companies say they will. At Four Corners (below) a dragline exposes a seam of coal in a billion-ton deposit that feeds the plant at far right; ash from the plant will be buried beneath these spoil piles and the land recontoured. Another mine at Black Mesa operates under a lease that calls for fill-as -you-dig procedures. Mopping up powdery soft coal from a seam's edge, a loader at Four Corners fills a truck amid a cloud of dust (right).