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Freeport-McMoRan to cut 430 jobs in GV, shut down Miami mine

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Freeport-McMoRan to cut 430 jobs in GV, shut down Miami mine

  • courtesy Freeport-McMoRan

Mining giant Freeport-McMoRan will lay off about 430 workers from the Sierrita open pit mine in Green Valley, and will explore the possibility of completely shutting down the mine. The company will also close down its copper mine in Miami, north of Tucson, officials said.

In addition to the layoffs south of Tucson, about 160 will lose their jobs in Miami, and another 210 jobs are being eliminated in New Mexico, a company spokesman said.

Low prices for copper and other minerals caused the Phoenix-based multi-national company to cut operations, the company indicated in a third-quarter financial report.

The company's average realized price for copper has fallen sharply, from $3.14 per pound over the first three quarters of 2014 to $2.38 this year. While the company produces much smaller amounts of molybdenum, the price of that mineral fells even more drastically, from $13.01 per pound to $7.91, Freeport reported.

The copper market has collapsed mainly because of a drop in demand from China, where the economy has slowed this year. That country makes up about 40 percent of the world's demand for copper.

Freeport-McMoRan had increased its North American production sharply in 2014, with a 19 percent increase over the prior year. That bump was mainly driven by the ramping up of milling activity in Morenci.

Mining at the Sierrita facility, which employed about 1,300 people a year ago, was already slowed when about 130 people were cut from the payroll in August. Production has been cut in half at the mile-wide, 1,400-foot deep open pit, the company said.

Mining operations will end at the Miami open-pit, north of Tucson in the Globe-Miami copper mining district. About 1,000 workers were employed at Freeport's Miami operations last year.

About 160 jobs are being cut there, and the operation will employ about 780 people "once all of the changes have been implemented," Freeport-McMoRan spokesman Eric Kinneberg said in an email Friday. The company has a smelter and rod mill operation in Miami.

"It is highly unlikely that mining activities at Miami will resume in the near future," he said.

The company is also cutting production at its Tyrone mine near Silver City, N.M., by 50 percent. That mine had more than 1,600 employees at the end of last year, the company said.

About 210 jobs are being cut at the New Mexico site because of the reduced mining activity there, with the Tyrone operation expected to have about 400 workers after the cuts, Kinneberg said.

The job cuts will likely be made sometime in January, company officials said.

The Sierrita mine produced about 140 million pounds of copper and 17 million pounds of molybdenum for the first nine months of 2015. The total cutback at the mine will be about 100 million pounds of copper and 10 million pounds of molybdenum annually.

The company has cut about 250 million pounds of copper and 20 million pounds of molybdenum per year when combining the latest cuts with previously announced curtailments in production, the company reported.

The Miami mine had produced 33 million pounds of copper for the first nine months of 2015, while about produced 65 million pounds of copper was mined at Tyrone in the same period.

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