Utah International's Navajo mine
— W. W. Karna


Located on the northern fringe of the Chihuahuan desert in the San Juan Basin, the Navajo mine and Four Corners generating station comprise the world's largest contiguous coal mine and power generating complexes. The mine, which is owned and operated by Utah International, an affiliate of General Electric, was opened in 1963, and now comprises some 31,400 acres of land leased from the Navajo Nation with estimated reserves of 1.1 billion tons of coal. The power plant, owned by a group of Southwestern utilities and operated by Arizona Public Service Company, burns about 7 million tons of coal per year to generate 2,085 megawatts of electricity. The plant is tied into an electric power grid that encompasses the cities of Los Angeles, Phoenix, Albuquerque, Tucson and El Paso for use in industries and homes. 

The Navajo mine is in the sub-bituminous coal beds of the Fruitland formation formed in Upper Cretaceous sediments.

It is interesting to note that of the approximately 500 people employed at the mine 72% are Navajo Indians. Of the 500 employees, only about 100 are directly employed in mining. These miners are dragline and other mining equipment operators, blasting crews and train operators. The rest of the employees are support personnel. These non-miners include mechanics, welders, accountants, health and safety engineers, electricians, secretaries, clerks, surveyors, technicians, warehousemen, mining engineers, environmental engineers, supervisors and laborers. All of the employees are important and valued team members without whose efforts mining would not be possible.

Full-text (921 KB PDF)

Recommended Citation:

  1. Karna, W. W., 1977, Utah International's Navajo mine, in: San Juan Basin III, Fassett, J. E.; James, H. L.; Hodgson, Helen E., New Mexico Geological Society, Guidebook, 28th Field Conference, pp. 251-252. https://doi.org/10.56577/FFC-28.251

[see guidebook]