The Santa Rita open pit at the Chino Mine site in Grant County, New Mexico, is one of the largest copper mines in the world. This mining site is one of the three mines in southwestern New Mexico subject to the settlement agreement. Photo credit: Russ MacRae, FWS.
On February 21, 2012 the State of New Mexico and the Department of the Interior, acting through the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, in their role as natural resource trustees, settled natural resource damage claims against Freeport-McMoRan Corp. and four subsidiaries. The settlement, embodied in a Consent Decree entered by the Federal District Court of New Mexico, resolves claims against the companies arising from the release of hazardous substances – such as lead, arsenic and sulfuric acid – at 3 mining sites in New Mexico. These mining sites are the Chino, Cobre and Tyrone mines in Grant County, in the southwestern corner of the State.
The natural resource trustees determined that hazardous substances released from the mining sites caused injuries to groundwater, surface water, sediments, soils, terrestrial habitats, terrestrial receptors and migratory birds,
The settlement calls for Freeport-McMoRan to:
The transferred land, which is adjacent to City of Rocks State Park in the Mimbres Valley, will be managed for conservation by New Mexico State Parks Division. The land is representative of high Chihuahuan desert grassland habitat.
The State of New Mexico, as the sole trustee for groundwater, separately reached a $13 million settlement with Freeport-McMoRan for injured groundwater at the mining sites on February 11, 2011.
The natural resource trustees will now develop a Draft Restoration Plan which will propose various restoration projects to be funded by the settlement. This Draft Restoration Plan will be made available for public review and comment in the near future.