Navajo Nation Council Speaker LoRenzo Bates touted the $5 million investment as assurance of the mine's continued operation.
"You made a considerable investment in the Navajo people with those two engines. But the investment is for a purpose. It's for that stability that we see," Bates said.
But he also acknowledged the challenges the coal industry faces from environmental regulations and renewable energy sources.
The Navajo Nation has an estimated 100 years' worth of coal resources. Tribal leaders are trying to balance the use of coal to generate electricity with the need to research alternatives, and keep revenue and jobs, Bates said.
Officials from the Navajo Transitional Energy Co., the Navajo Nation and Bisti Fuels Co. joined mine employees Wednesday for the unveiling ceremony for the two locomotives bought this year from General Electric, The Daily Times reported (http://bit.ly/2wEEklO).
Ernest Yazzie, one of five locomotive operators for Bisti Fuels, a subsidiary of the North American Coal Corp. that operates the mine, called the new machines "awesome."
As part of the transition from the electric locomotives the mine used to use, Yazzie is undergoing training for operating the diesel locomotives' computer systems.
The new locomotives have more space, air conditioning and better insulation, he added.
"I love it," Yazzie said.