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Friday, June 14, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Polluting Copper Mine|Fined $6.8 Million

TUCSON (CN) - Freeport-McMoRan Corp. must pay $6.8 million to settle claims that it polluted natural resources near the Morenci Mine, the largest copper mine in Arizona, according to a federal consent decree.

The state and federal government's claimed that the mining giant allowed tailings from the Morenci Mine to seep into rivers, streams and aquifers. Freeport-McMoRan, which bought the mine from Phelps-Dodge in 2007, also allowed tailings and smelter emissions to blow off site, and allowed contaminated water to pool on tailings, endangering migratory birds, according to the complaint.

"Based on historical studies and additional assessment work, the trustees have determined that releases of hazardous substances at or from the mine site have occurred and such releases have caused - and continue to cause - injuries to natural resources at and in the vicinity of the mine site, including but not limited to injuries to surface water, sediments, soils, terrestrial habitats and terrestrial receptors, and migratory birds," the complaint states.

Freeport-McMoRan and the government entered into a consent decree, according to the Department of Justice. The company will pay $6.8 million to the Department of the Interior's Natural Resource Damage Assessment and Restoration Fund.

"This money will be used by the federal and state natural resources trustees to plan and implement projects designed to restore, replace or acquire the equivalent of wildlife and wildlife habitat in the vicinity of the impacted area," the Department of Justice said in statement.

The Morenci Mine has operated near the small town of Morenci, about 200 miles northeast of Tucson, since the 1880s. With a daily output of some 635,000 metric tons of ore, it is the state's largest copper mine.

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