One hundred years of mining and many more to go for ASARCO

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ASARCO POURING COPPER.jpg

Pouring the smelted copper into anode forms. (File photo)

By Mila Besich Lira

Nugget

In 2012, ASARCO celebrated 100 years of copper mining and smelting in the Hayden and Kearny areas. The mine has far outlived its overall expectations.

In a recent interview with Tom Aldrich, Vice President of Environmental Affairs at ASARCO, he explained that in 1976 the company predicted that there were enough copper reserves to mine another 30 years. Thirty-seven years later the company is still mining and smelting. About the future of continued mining for ASARCO. “Miners are optimistic,” explained Aldrich.

The company reports that in 2012 it had 1,403 employees. Those employees were paid $140.8 million dollars in wages, salaries and benefits. The company paid $28.6 million in property, severance and sales taxes and they spend $347.5 million for services and products such as fuel, energy and operating supplies.

Copper mining remains the main industry for the Copper Basin area, yet many of the workers commute to their jobs using van pools and carpooling. It is not uncommon to find a childhood resident of the Copper Basin working at the mine, yet commuting from their home in one of the metro areas. The ease of commuting and transportation advancements have changed the dynamics of of the mining community. The mining towns of the past often had 5,000 to 7,000 residents those numbers are almost half that in today’s operations. The employees now have a choice, and some still choose to enjoy living near work; others enjoy the hour commute into work from the city.

The mining operations have expanded and developed tremendously since the early mining days, which date back to early 1900s. In those early days mining was less regulated than it is today. The communities of Hayden and Kearny grew around the expansion of the Ray pit and the smelting operations in Hayden. The long lost towns of Ray, Sonora and Barcelona, succumbed to the growth of the open pit. Those communities are now only memories but the legacy of the work of their people continue through the ongoing mining operations, what was given up provides employment for yet another generation.

ASARCO continues to look for ways to develop and further their exploration. The company currently has claim to several more mining rights in the area. ASARCO has been working on a land exchange that will allow them to own the land that their mining claims are on. These claims will have to go through Environmental Impact Studies, something that the original mines did not have to go through during the early 1900s.

The company is currently going though the public participation phase of permitting new tailings sites. The current tailing sites in Hayden date back to the 1930s and ‘40s, and were built in the days when the thought of reclamation and end use was not a priority. But those sites are still highly regulated and permitted to ensure the local environment is safe. As the federal regulations have changed over the years the company has had to make modifications to their operations and smelting to ensure that environmental regulations are met, and that employees and the communities surrounding the mine are not harmed by the operations.

Other challenges that ASARCO often faces as they continue is developing a workforce. Will there be people to continue working in the mines? As the future develops into the present for these longtime mining operations, the industry is developing new tools for extraction and that will mean new job skills for a work force. A workforce that can often date back to generations in some families. The tasks and tools of a miner today wont be the same tasks that their father or grandfather may have done, however the industry will always have a need for skilled workforce to be machinists, electricians, welders, engineers, and accountants.

The mining methods and skills may change, regulations may increase but the mining industry continues to have projections for a long lived future in the area.

of their people continue through the ongoing mining operations, what was given up provides employment for yet another generation.

ASARCO continues to look for ways to develop and further their exploration. The company currently has claim to several more mining rights in the area. ASARCO has been working on a land exchange that will allow them to own the land that their mining claims are on. These claims will have to go through Environmental Impact Studies, something that the original mines did not have to go through during the early 1900s.

The company is currently going though the public participation phase of permitting new tailings sites. The current tailing sites in Hayden date back to the 1930s and ‘40s, and were built in the days when the thought of reclamation and end use was not a priority. But those sites are still highly regulated and permitted to ensure the local environment is safe. As the federal regulations have changed over the years the company has had to make modifications to their operations and smelting to ensure that environmental regulations are met, and that employees and the communities surrounding the mine are not harmed by the operations.

Other challenges that ASARCO often faces as they continue is developing a workforce. Will there be people to continue working in the mines? As the future develops into the present for these longtime mining operations, the industry is developing new tools for extraction and that will mean new job skills for a work force. A workforce that can often date back to generations in some families. The tasks and tools of a miner today wont be the same tasks that their father or grandfather may have done, however the industry will always have a need for skilled workforce to be machinists, electricians, welders, engineers, and accountants.

The mining methods and skills may change, regulations may increase but the mining industry continues to have projections for a long lived future in the area.

Courtney (305 Posts)


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