Phelps Dodge off and running with construction on Safford mine

Phelps Dodge off and running with construction on Safford mine

Less than two months after receiving the final permit needed to begin construction, Phelps Dodge has several building projects underway at the Safford mine site.

Concrete has been poured, and foundation work is being done on several sites around the Safford mine, most notably the primary, secondary and tertiary crusher sites. While work on road-building began with groundbreaking at the site on June 12, Phelps Dodge could not move forward with the construction projects they are building now until a final air quality permit was approved in mid-July.

Mine General Manager Ruben Griffith said the steel to finish the structures will be brought in around the middle of next month, getting the structures off the ground and up into the air.

“After the structures go up, (we) can begin installing equipment,” Griffith said.

Phelps Dodge communications director Kimball Hansen said the process for construction on the different building projects requires coordination between Phelps Dodge and the companies it brings to the site.

“The site preparation work is done by Phelps Dodge, then contract crews go up and start building,” Hansen said.

Currently the mine construction operation is using about 300 contracted employees on a daily basis, with an additional 100 Phelps Dodge employees on site. Griffith said the numbers of employees are increasing on a weekly basis and can be expected to top out at approximately 1,000 workers at the peak of construction.

Nielsons Skanska is primarily responsible for the road construction projects at the mine, and Aker Kvaerner, under the management of the Vancouver-based Fluor Engineering group, is primarily involved with the structural construction projects. Neither of these two companies have not reported any significant problems with finding housing for their workers as of yet, Griffith said.

“The short-term issue is the contractors and the long-term issue is for our own employees,” Griffith said. Griffith said a housing meeting is scheduled to take place soon between PD and the companies it has contracted for this project, with the goal of developing housing plans for when the number of construction workers reaches its peak.

“As of now, we’ve had no issues,” Griffith said, “but it is a concern.”

Some of the future projects during mine construction will be unique to the Safford mine, specifically the planned size of the super-stacker system in the leeching pile.

“The sheer physical size of the super-stacker system will be the biggest ever designed in the world,” Griffith said.

Work on pre-mine development is scheduled to begin either late this year or in early 2007, Griffith said.

Phelps Dodge is planning to begin production of copper by 2008, bringing in an annual economic gain of more than $62 million for the Gila Valley by the time the mine is fully operational.

The company is building the mine facilities and developing the mine as quickly as possible to take advantage of the high price of copper, Griffith said.

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