Phelps Dodge gets last permit to build new copper mine

Phelps Dodge gets last permit to build new copper mine

Phelps Dodge Corp. has obtained the final permit for plans to build a new copper mine about nine miles northeast of Safford.

The air quality permit from the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality clears the way for a $550 million construction project for a mine that will be able to produce 120,000 tons of copper a year by the second half of 2008.

The anticipated Safford production would yield $880 million a year at Monday’s spot closing price of $3.67 a pound.

Officials with Phoenix-based Phelps Dodge said up to 1,000 construction workers will be needed at the peak of the building project in mid-2007 and about 400 full-time workers and 100 more contract workers will operate the mine and processing plants.

The new mine will put Dos Pobres and San Juan, two copper deposits identified decades ago, into open-pit production after years of effort to get regulatory clearance.

The Safford project will use the low-cost solvent-extraction/electrowinning process that uses acidic solutions to draw copper from mountains of crushed ore. The process produces nearly pure copper cathodes on site without the need for smelting or refining.

ADEQ said the permit regulates emissions of nitrogen oxides, particulate matter and sulfuric acid mist from the mine and the associated mineral crusher, extraction facility and leach pad.

The Phelps Dodge flagship mine at Morenci, 45 miles northeast of Safford, produces 850 million pounds of copper a year.

It is the biggest copper producer in North America and the largest SX/EW copper production site in the world.

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