Freeport-McMoRan’s New Mexico Operations Helping Ensure Future Water Supply for Area
October 24, 2023 - Thanks in part to the support of Freeport-McMoRan, access to clean water may be improving for thousands of residents near the company’s operations in New Mexico.
To help ensure future water resiliency for the area, leadership from the company’s Chino and Tyrone operations have been actively engaged in a series of efforts, which include collaborating with key stakeholders, financial commitments and a potential company match of a federal grant.
“It is amazing what can be accomplished when people listen to each other, understand constraints and choose to act together,” said Randy Ellison, General Manager-Chino. “That is exactly the kind of public-private partnership that has occurred between Freeport and the town and city leaders in the mining district.”
The company has participated in the following efforts:
- For the past year-and-a-half, Chino has worked with neighboring communities, known as the mining district, to finalize agreements to transfer from the company’s water rights 250-acre feet of water to the Village of Santa Clara and 200-acre feet to the Town of Hurley as part of the Regional Water Plan. An acre foot of water is the equivalent of more than 325,000 gallons. Chino has supplied water to the town of Hurley for several decades and this transfer will provide the town ownership of their own water rights.
- To help secure consideration for congressional direct spending of $5 million for a wastewater treatment plant, New Mexico leadership has committed to contribute up to $1 million to the City of Bayard, offsetting the grant-matching requirement for the $5 million that otherwise solely fell on taxpayers.
- Earlier this year, Tyrone also donated $100,000 to the Gila Basin Irrigation Commission for urgently needed acequias repairs, outpacing government funding.
- The New Mexico Finance Authority recently awarded the Grant County Regional Water Project more than $3 million through a Colonias Infrastructure grant. In New Mexico, more than 150 rural border communities are designated as “colonia,” and these grants are intended to afford them more sanitary living conditions. This funding, which the company’s New Mexico leadership wrote a letter in support of, will help Grant County improve quality of life and achieve a greater degree of sustainability, expanding access to clean water and wastewater management.
Through these combined efforts, surrounding communities will continue to have access to clean water even after the mines’ work is finished.
“Everything the group has worked on builds resiliency for generations to come, contributing to the long-term success of our operating communities,” said Laura Phelps, Social Performance Manager-New Mexico Operations.
As the project’s momentum continues to grow, local Freeport leadership plans to stay engaged in this critical work.
“This has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my professional career,” Ellison said. “The regional water effort has been over a decade in the making. The importance of ensuring that each municipality has its own stand-alone source of water and then linking those municipal systems together to ensure a secondary source for every community is a game changer for the long-term resiliency of the mining district.”
Photos (top right; bottom): : Bayard Mayor Chon Fierro (left) and Stephen Estrada, Laborer/Operator, at the wastewater treatment plant in Hurley, look out over the facility; Among those who have worked to help ensure water resiliency for communities near the company’s New Mexico operations (from left): Laura Phelps, Social Performance Manager-New Mexico Operations; Chon Fierro, Bayard Mayor; Tony Trujillo, government relations consultant; Randy Ellison, General Manager-Chino; Priscilla Lucero, Executive Director-Southwest New Mexico Council of Governments; Erich Bower, General Manager-Tyrone; Mary Kay Papen, Chair-Colonias Infrastructure Board; Kristina Ortiz, Community Liaison for USDA-Rural Partners Network; and Alex Brown, Silver City Town Manager.