January 29, 2004
Phelps Dodge To Rehire 200 Workers
By Deborah Baker
The Associated Press
SANTA FE Phelps Dodge will rehire up to 200 workers at its Grant County operations in the next two years, Gov. Bill Richardson and a company official said Thursday.
The company will reopen its Cobre mine and its Chino milling operations.
Rising copper prices prompted the decision to resume production, the company said.
Phelps Dodge Corp., the world's second-largest copper producer, announced Thursday that it had posted a profit for 2003, after 10 consecutive quarters of losses.
"Our return to profitability in 2003 is welcome news, and we're encouraged by the indications that the current economic recovery is both real and sustainable," said company spokesman Tony Trujillo.
The Cobre mine has been closed since 1999. Workers will be added at the Chino operation, which has 375 employees currently, he said.
"They'll be high-wage jobs with excellent benefits, health care and pensions," Richardson said.
He said state agencies have worked closely with the mining company to resolve environmental issues.
"I told them to make sure that when market conditions improved, the mines would reopen," the governor said at a news conference.
The Richardson administration agreed last year to accept a corporate guarantee from the mining company rather than insisting on a cash bond for about $300 million of the $484 million the state requires to ensure cleanup at the Chino, Tyrone and Cobre mines.
Rep. Manuel Herrera, D-Bayard, said the state's southwest corner has gone through "six brutal years" of high unemployment.
"This is going to put a lot of our people back to work," Herrera said.
The jobs will pay about $45,000 a year in a county of 30,000 people where the per capita income is $18,500 and unemployment is at 13.5 percent, said Economic Development Secretary Rick Homans.
"Obviously 200 jobs at that level about a $10 million payroll will have a huge impact," Homans said.