Morenci Mine

Less than a month after Freeport McMoRan General Manager Jeff Monteith assured Safford employees they would not “see any significant changes,” the company is furloughing an unknown number of employees.

Linda Hayes, a spokeswoman for Freeport, declined to answer how many employees would be furloughed or for how long. Nor did she answer what had changed since April 24, when Monteith released his statement. Instead, she emailed the following statement: “Based on Lone Star project needs and current production requirements, we have furloughed a small number of Safford employees. Before doing this, we actively looked to replace contractors with Freeport-McMoRan employees to minimize the impact on our workforce.”

Mike Kridel, senior vice president, also sent out a memo Wednesday to Morenci employees announcing the company is moving ahead with the anticipated furloughs they announced last month. He, too, described a “small number” of furloughs.

“Before doing this, we were able to move some employees to new roles and replace a number of contractor positions with employees to lessen the impact to our workforce. We are working with our contractors to define their roles during this transition. Additionally, we continue to implement a series of actions to reduce administrative and centralized support costs in conjunction with the revised operating plans throughout the company,” Kridel wrote.

He also said that because of the “fluidity of the situation,” they couldn’t predict the length of the furloughs.

Last month, Freeport-McMoRan announced it was revising its operating plans in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. In making the announcement, Monteith said the global economy had prompted the company to devise a plan to “reduce capital spending, lower production levels, and lower operating administrative and exploration costs to preserve the company’s financial strength during this period of uncertainty.”

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