While available construction and operations jobs are rising for Freeport McMoRan Copper & Gold Inc.'s mines in Safford and Morenci, the world's largest publicly traded copper company continues to consolidate the majority of its white-collar workers to Tucson and Phoenix.

Recently, the company announced its plans to transfer about 100 administrative and technology jobs from Safford to its new facility in Tucson. FMI purchased the former American Airlines reservation center at 3350 E. Valencia Rd. in Tucson for $5.1 million in cash, according to the Pima County Recorder's Office.

Freeport spokesperson Eric Kinneberg released a statement via e-mail regarding the move.

"We are moving a portion of our mining, process and environmental technology activities along with administrative functions from Safford to the recently purchased property," Kinneberg wrote.

According to an article in the Arizona Daily Star, construction activities at the site are set to begin early next year, and the transferred employees will begin working there in the third quarter.

This is the most recent shift of white-collar jobs from the Gila Valley the mining company has made. After purchasing Phelps Dodge in 2007, Freeport began to consolidate its upper office workers to its headquarters in Phoenix.

Still plenty of construction jobs available

While the majority of white-collar jobs have or are in the process of being transferred, construction jobs are ramping up.

According to Jeff Holloway, a subcontracting manager for Jacobs Field Services, his firm had a two-year contract with FMI for construction services at the Morenci Mine and will need between 1,300 to 1,500 workers to be sufficiently staffed. To help fill the need, Ryan's Express has begun to operate a local facility to shuttle workers from out of the area to the site. Holloway said the buses are necessary because there simply are not enough people in the area to fill all of the positions.

To help satisfy the need for employees, Ryan's Express will bus workers from Safford, Duncan, Willcox and Lordsburg, N.M. To help maintain its fleet in the area, the company has leased a property at 870 E. Highway 70 and is working with the city and a general contractor to make improvements, including creating a shop area. The company plans to have a local maintenance facility at the site.

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