The sometimes dizzying bust-boom-slump-boom history of copper is especially well-known in Arizona, a region that — combined with New Mexico and Sonora — is the world’s second-richest source of the metal after Chile.
This historical cycle is documented by Arizona Daily Star archives in the 2000s alone — much less the decades before that.
(With credit to former Star reporter Richard Ducote, current Star reporters Gabriela Rico and Tony Davis and Assistant Business Editor David Wichner, Bloomberg News and The Associated Press for the reporting excerpted here):
Oct. 23, 2001: Phoenix-based Phelps Dodge Corp. announces it will cut 1,400 jobs, trim copper production, and kill its stock dividend to deal with weak copper prices and a sliding economy. Copper price: 63 cents a pound.
Dec. 11, 2002: The long-awaited improvement in copper prices has not materialized. For the first three quarters of 2002, Tucson-based Asarco lost $38 million. In the same period of 2001, Asarco lost $81 million. Copper price: Just shy of 74 cents a pound. Prices would have to approach $1 a pound for happy days to return for Arizona producers.
Jan. 30, 2004: Phelps Dodge is ramping up production and hiring workers after two years of trimmed-down operations, when metals prices were in the tank. Credit China, in part, for this welcome uptick. A penny increase in the selling price of copper generally translates into a nickel-per-share increase in quarterly income, Phelps Dodge calculates. Copper price: Near a six-year high of about $1.12 a pound.
March 1, 2005: Shares of Grupo Mexico, the world’s third-biggest copper producer and parent of Asarco, rise for a 10th day on soaring copper prices. Copper price: $1.50 a pound, almost doubled from two years before.
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