Freeport-McMoRan Inc. announced that it will close its Sierrita copper mine as part of spending cuts by the Phoenix-based company to compensate for low oil and copper prices.
The closure announcement follows an October decision to pare down the number of workers at the site by about half.
Freeport also said it will suspend the 20-cent annual dividend on its stock, a major reason many investors put their money in the company. Freeport-McMoRan has been hurt by low oil prices, affecting its oil and gas business, as well as sagging copper prices, AZCentral reported.
The low oil prices are forcing Freeport to cut about $1 billion in expenses from its oil and gas business in the next two years as well as its copper cutback.
James R. Moffett, FCX’s Chairman of the Board and Richard C. Adkerson, Vice Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer said in a statement, “We are taking further actions to strengthen our financial position during a period of weak and uncertain market conditions. While copper prices have weakened in recent weeks and the near-term copper outlook is uncertain, we view the medium and longer term outlook positively, supported by copper’s important role in the global economy and limitations on global supplies. As we approach 2016, we are positioning the company for free cash flow generation in a weak commodity price environment and remain focused on actions to reduce debt. Our high quality portfolio of long-lived assets, flexible operating structure and experienced management team provide a solid base to address the current market conditions while maintaining an attractive portfolio of assets positioned for long-term success.”
The Sierrita Mine in Pima County is south of Tucson and west of Green Valley. It employed about 1,300 people and boasted a $358 million annual economic benefit to the state last year in wages, taxes and other financial activity, according to the company.
Sierrita has a concentrating facility for copper and molybdenum, and it processes molybdenum from the Sierrita and other Freeport mines. Molybdenum is used in steel alloys.
The ore deposit at Sierrita was first recorded in 1895 and first worked as an underground mine in 1907, according to Freeport. It was converted to an open pit in 1957. Freeport also owns the shuttered Twin Buttes copper mine next to Sierrita, which the company has said could offer production synergies should both properties be in operation at once.
The ore at Sierrita is low in copper but made profitable by the presence of molybdenum.