By Ryan Randazzo for The Arizona Republic
Freeport-McMoRan Inc. said Dec. 9 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 has been hurt by low oil prices, affecting its oil and gas business, as well as sagging copper prices.
Oil prices fell to about $37 a barrel, approaching a seven-year low. The low prices are forcing Freeport to cut about $1B in expenses from its oil and gas business in the next two years as well as its copper cutback.
Copper prices are running at about $2 a pound, or half their 2011 levels.
The Sierrita Mine in Pima County is south of Tucson and west of Green Valley. It employed about 1,300 people and boasted a $358M annual economic benefit to the state last year in wages, taxes and other financial activity, according to the company.
About 250 workers will remain at the facility to operate the molybdenum processing and packaging facilities, ongoing copper leaching and cathode production, and to maintain the mine, company spokesman Eric Kinneberg said.
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