MORENCI — The Arizona State Land Department auctioned a sizable amount of land last month and the buyer was Freeport-McMoRan.
On Jan. 6, the State Trust Land Department auctioned a total of 16,670 acres to Freeport-McMoRan in the vicinity of its Bagdad mining operations, reportedly to use as a tailings storage facility.
The land sale set the company back a total of $13.6 million. Freeport was the sole bidder.
The massive 25-square-mile area of desert will accommodate the waste from the Bagdad mine, which accounts for 20 percent of Freeport’s North American copper production.
Mining operations across the world came under scrutiny for tailings management last year, following a tragedy in the Brazilian town of Brumadinho that killed 237 people. Mining companies were forced to issue disclosures on tailings dams to Principles for Responsible Investment (PRI) Group, which includes the Church of England as investors.
The report found the majority of Freeport’s tailings facilities to be of a similar design to those involved in the Brumadinho incident.
Speaking with the Copper Era in 2019, FMI denied similarities between the tailings designs and promoted the safety of its operations.
“We maintain a rigorous tailings management and stewardship program involving multi-tiered processes focused on verifying the long-term safety of all our operations,” a Freeport spokesperson wrote in an e-mail.
In spite of that, the Church of England late last month was still calling for restrictions on current tailings dams across the globe, calling for the removal of more dangerous examples and the formation of an international monitoring facility.
A global database of tailings dam information can be found online at http://tailing.grida.no/.