Freeport Foundation suspending Graham Community Investment Fund for 2020

SAFFORD — Freeport-McMoRan will not be making contributions to Graham County nonprofits, schools and local governments this year.

In a letter to community partners Thursday, Tracy Bame, president of the Freeport-McMoRan Foundation, said the company is temporarily suspending the 2020 Graham County Community Investment Fund program.

“We believe that continuing to engage in our communities is a crucial part of how we operate, and even though we must reduce our level of investment, we will be working to find additional ways that we can positively contribute.  While we won’t be able to carry out our typical CIF investment process, we have maintained some funding at the operations level in order to consider the most urgent needs related to the COVID pandemic. We encourage you to contact us related to these urgent needs so we may determine if there is a way for us to provide support.  We will also continue to collaborate with our partners in determining and addressing the longer-term recovery from the impact of COVID in every way we can,” Bame said.

She cited one of those partners — the United Way of Graham and Greenlee Counties — which has received about $5 million in matching funds from the Foundation over the past two years.

“We will be reassessing the economic environment and realities regularly and hope to be able to return to our community investment strategy as soon as feasible. We would like to emphasize that while the funding level may be temporarily reduced, our commitment to finding ways to provide support remains unchanged,” she said.

“These are unprecedented times with a level of economic uncertainty never before seen. The pandemic has left no business or industry unscathed. However, our company has substantial experience in successfully navigating challenging conditions. We are confident we will overcome the near-term challenges and remain confident about the long-term positive future of our business.”

Last Year, Freeport distributed $400,000 for seven Graham County projects through the Community Investment Fund.

Freeport recently announced that, due to the pandemic and falling copper prices, it was offering early retirement to workers and the number of early retirees will dictate the number of involuntary separations the company will enact.

It also announced that Safford was moving forward with the Lone Star operation, while Linda Hayes, director of Internal Communication for Freeport, said the Morenci mining operation will see “elimination of some positions and a small number of furloughs.” Hayes did not specify if the positions being eliminated would be held by contractors or Freeport staff.