Despite cost cutting, Freeport continuing with Lone Star

Contributed Photo. Freeport's Safford mining operation.

SAFFORD – Despite earlier announcements of early retirements and possible staffing reductions, officials said that Freeport-McMoRan’s Safford mining operation should be relatively unaffected.

In a letter to community partners issued Friday, April 24, Jeff Monteith, general manager for the Safford mining operation, said Safford “will not see any significant changes based on these revised operating plans. However, we will continue cost cutting and efficiency measures already in place.”

Also Friday, Freeport announced it was cutting estimated operating costs worldwide by $1.3 billion in 2020, reducing exploration and administrative costs by $100 million, reducing capital expenditures by $800 million, reducing copper sales by about 400 million pounds and was projecting quarterly revenues downward from $3.79 billion to $2.79 billion.

The company temporarily shut down its Chino mining operation in New Mexico earlier this month due to an outbreak of COVID-19 among workers, but in Friday’s announcement Freeport said it was continuing to “complete initial phase of the Lone Star Copper Leach Project” in Safford, “with a remaining capital investment of about $100 million in 2020.”

A downward trend in copper prices prompted Steve Higgins, senior vice president and chief administrative officer, to write to employees April 15 that Freeport was offering “an enhanced voluntary separation program to certain groups and individuals that will offer special severance benefits to employees who wish to voluntarily leave the company, whether for professional opportunities, retirement or other personal reasons.”

Higgins further said that the number of employees who opt for the early retirement program “will determine the extent to which involuntary separations will be required.”

Gila Valley Central’s e-mail inquiring about Morenci mining operations was not immediately returned.

Editor’s note: This story was edited at 4:01 p.m. April 27, 2020, to correct the spelling of Monteith.