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The Morenci Mine experienced 36 non-fatal accident days between Jan. 1 and Sept. 28, according to the Mine Safety and Health Administration. During the same time period last year, the mine experienced 83 such accidents. 

With more than three quarters of the year gone, records show that Freeport-McMoRan’s Safford and Morenci mines have seen a significant decrease in the number of days lost due to accidents over last year.

According to records obtained under the Freedom of Information Act and the Mine Safety and Health Administration website, the Safford mine has recorded 10 non-fatal days lost incidents involving operators this year compared to 24 last year. The Morenci mine has documented 36 such incidents compared to 83 last year.

Records also show both mines have recorded one fatal accident from 2008-2020, but none have taken place within the last three years.

“The health, safety and well-being of our employees, contractors, suppliers and the communities where we operate is our highest priority. Our objective is to achieve zero workplace fatalities and to decrease injuries and occupational illnesses,” said Linda Hayes, vice president of communications for Freeport. “We provide site-specific safety training to anyone who comes on our property and require our workforce to attend annual comprehensive safety-refresher classes. Employees in certain positions are required to attend task-specific training and obtain certifications that demonstrate competency.”

Between the two mines there have been six incidents within the last three years involving “permanent total or permanent partial disability.” Records indicate in four of the incidents employees have either amputated or smashed a fingertip.

In the other incidents, one Morenci mine employee injured himself while working on the front end of a haul truck and another Morenci worker was struck by a 7,000 pound piece of equipment and pinned against a stand.

When asked about the incidents, Hayes said each “were reported to MSHA in accordance with their reporting criteria and none met the threshold of trigging an MSHA investigation. Where appropriate, corrective actions and additional controls were communicated and implemented companywide to prevent similar events.”

She went on to say the company is well below the mining industry average for total reportable incident rates.

A U.S. Department of Labor spokesman released the following statement: “The Non-Fatal Days Lost Rate for these mines is similar to the Rate for their peer cohort in terms mine type and size.”

MSHA is required to inspect each underground mine four times a year and each surface mine twice a year for health and safety compliance, said Laura McGinnis, a Department of Labor spokeswoman. Certain mines with high levels of explosive or toxic gasses are inspected more often. Inspections are also conducted in response to complaints of hazardous conditions.

According to the U.S. Department of Labor’s website, between Jan. 1, 2017 and Sept. 28, 2020, the Safford Mine has paid roughly $179,000 in fines imposed by MSHA and the Morenci Mine has paid more than $1.2 million in fines.

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