A MINING Legacy
Our history in New Mexico began in the early 1900s with the growth of mining activities near Silver City at Tyrone and Chino. Over time, communities followed and economies developed. Today we provide the metals that wire the world, build and strengthen infrastructure and continue to drive economies.
We are a global company with local priorities. We train workers, support education at all levels and facilitate community-based economic initiatives. We recognize that our mining activities both impact the environment and improve our quality of life in countless ways.
Safety is a core value. We adhere to a framework for managing risks and preventing work-related accidents and illness, particularly fatality prevention. Similarly, we value health and wellness for our workforce as well as in the communities where we have a presence. This is crucial to our goal for sustainable development.
New Mexico Mines
Chino mine is an open-pit copper mining complex about 15 miles east of Silver City, in Grant County, NM. Large-scale copper mining at Chino began in 1910 with the development of one of the first mines to utilize open-pit mining and concentrating. The original concentrator began operating in 1911 and was replaced by a new facility in 1982. Solvent extraction/electrowinning (SX/EW) facilities were introduced at Chino in 1988. Chino currently operates a concentrator that produces copper concentrate and an SX/EW plant that produces copper cathode.
Chino has more than 2,200 acres of reclaimed tailings and dozens of shafts, adits and pits associated with historical small mines that have been closed and/or reclaimed.
Tyrone mine is an open-pit copper mining complex about 10 miles south of Silver City, in Grant County, NM. Copper mining in the Tyrone area, which straddles the Continental Divide, ranks among the oldest mining in the Americas.
Underground mining and concentrating were conducted from 1916 to 1921, when operations ceased. The property restarted as a large-scale open-pit operation in 1967, producing copper concentrate. A solvent extraction/electrowinning (SX/EW) facility was commissioned in 1984. Tyrone’s concentrator suspended operations in 1992 when the property made the transition to only SX/EW production.
Tyrone currently has more than 4,000 acres reclaimed tailings and stockpiles.
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How We Mine
The copper mining process is highly regulated – from exploration to extraction to processing – is highly regulated. To comply with these regulations can take years of planning and cost tens of millions of dollars. Once copper ore is extracted and mined, it’s treated to remove copper-bearing material through one of two ways This is done through two processes: concentrating or solvent extraction-electrowinning (SX/EW). Both require the use of water to produce the minerals needed to sustain our modern, high tech lives.
Our Tyrone and Chino operations produce a final product that is sold in the U.S. and around the world. The graphic below describes our mining process.
Uses of Copper
Our New Mexico operations are committed to supplying the world with responsibly produced copper, which means integrating sustainability in everything we do.
Copper plays an essential role in the technologies necessary to develop and deliver clean energy, helping to transition the world to a low-carbon economy. New Mexico has substantial renewable energy sources, particularly from wind and solar energy. Grant, Hidalgo, Sierra and Luna Counties have significant solar energy capacity, and Central New Mexico is home to significant wind resources. The Chino and Tyrone mines supply copper – a key component in solar energy systems and wind turbines.
Copper is necessary for local and global economic growth and is essential to energy, aerospace, transportation, construction and telecommunications systems. The red metal also is a good conductor of electricity, and more than 70 percent of the world’s copper is used in applications that deliver electricity.
The same properties that make copper a good conductor of electricity also enable it to kill microbes effectively. These antimicrobial properties enable copper to reduce, and, in certain cases, significantly diminish the transmission of bacteria, viruses and other pathogens in healthcare or general public settings – an important contribution to sustainability.
Understanding the Impact
Freeport-McMoRan’s New Mexico mining operations are proud of the economic value we contribute to the state of New Mexico. In addition to numerous jobs, a 2022 Economic Impact Report shows Chino and Tyrone mining operations generated $161 million in economic benefits for Grant County and $440.8 million for New Mexico.
Direct economic impact on Grant County:
Indirect economic impact on Grant County:
spending from new tax revenues
spending from pension income
Mining for New Mexico
As a state, New Mexico benefits from the work being conducted in Grant County. Our operations are estimated to directly contribute the following:
spending from new tax revenues
spending from pension income
Investing in our community
Freeport-McMoRan’s approach to community investment addresses high-priority needs and supports local organizations that enable community well-being, resiliency, and sustainability.
“Working in collaboration with a range of committed community partners, we’re continuing to focus on empowering citizens through opportunities to acquire a broad range of skills, education and leadership to foster community resilience and transformation that leads to sustainability” – Tracy Bame, President, Freeport-McMoRan Foundation
Giving back to Grant County is a year-round commitment. Recognizing that the challenges and opportunities in Southwest New Mexico are as unique as our terrain, we support various initiatives that strengthen the community and help develop our employees. More information on our various funding programs can be found at FreeportInMyCommunity.com
In 2022, Freeport-McMoRan awarded a total of $500,000 to organizations in New Mexico in the form of grants, sponsorships and other monetary support. Read last year’s media advisory for full program details.
Cobre Consolidated School District
Science Education Initiative of Grant County
National Center for Frontier Communities
The Village of Santa Clara
The Commons Center for Food Security and Sustainability
Town of Silver City
We recognize the very nature of our business depends on and impacts the natural environment. Our goal is to conduct our operations in a manner that minimizes adverse impacts on the surrounding environment and ecosystems through responsible environmental stewardship and controls.
Copper-bearing ore has naturally occurring potential to produce water that is acidic and contains metals. Mining accelerates production of impacted water due to already elevated concentrations of minerals in ore and the physical process of mining.
We work aggressively to contain any impacted water and reuse it in the mining process. Freeport-McMoRan policies and government regulations require use of monitoring wells to help confirm our containments are capturing impacted water. We provide regular reports to federal and state regulatory agencies documenting our compliance.
- pH (acidity)
- Metals like copper, lead, chromium, and many others per regulations
- Ponds and subsurface water collection systems – We build and operate ponds and subsurface seepage collections that are designed and strategically placed to capture runoff and seepage from our mining facilities.
- Extraction wells – These are similar to regular wells and are located in areas we know water may be impacted. We then we pump the water out and reuse it in our mining process. We also use monitoring wells to confirm impacted water isn’t leaving our property.
- Reclamation – We reclaim (restore to a vegetated wildlife habitat) facilities such as rock piles and tailing dams that will not be used for mining processes in the future. Our employees and contractor partners have accomplished large-scale, award-winning reclamation which helps mitigate environmental impacts for the long term.
- Assurance – We use monitoring wells to confirm impacted water does not leave our property. By sampling water from these wells in accordance with government regulations, we are able to monitor the effectiveness of our containment practices.
A significant amount of our water is captured / contained in our pits. Decades of data collection show groundwater around the Chino (Santa Rita) pit and the Tyrone pit is contained by these large holes, which act as hydraulic sinks.
We have installed hundreds of wells around the perimeter of our property designed and evaluated by external experts and reviewed regularly by the New Mexico Environment Department and our own environmental staff to help ensure impacted water is contained and addressed according to New Mexico water quality regulations.
- We average about 100 million gallons of reused and recycled water.
- According to the most recent Global Reporting Initiative report, Freeport-McMoRan calculated that 89 percent of the water was reused/recycled.
- We actively take measures to control dust from our operation, for example, applying mulch on side slopes of our active tailings dam.
- We have reclaimed our historic tailings facilities, which includes seeding with native plants.
Mining companies are responsible for managing environmental impacts, which includes reclamation of the land for post-mining use. The purpose of reclamation is to return areas impacted by mining and processing activities to a healthy state with lands that support productive post-mining use. Reclamation incorporates multiple aspects associated with environmental management and community well-being, such as surface and groundwater quality, air quality, erosion due to stormwater and wind, revegetation of suitable plant species, and wildlife habitat – all elements working together to advance ecosystem reestablishment.
We recognize the important role reclamation plays in sustainable development, and we work every day to meet the needs of today’s modern society while minimizing environmental impacts to safeguard future generations. At our New Mexico operations, the preparation and planning of mine reclamation activities is an ongoing practice. Even as our Chino and Tyrone mines continue to produce copper, reclamation has been completed on unused tailings impoundments and is either planned or underway for unused rock and leach stockpiles. As part of our commitment to advance sustainability, a team of project managers, technical experts and equipment operators currently are executing projects to reclaim areas no longer required for current or future operations. For more information click here.