Despite sagging demand, officials see shiny future for copper – by Lauren Clark (Tucson Sentinel – February 11, 2016)

Cronkite News – WASHINGTON – It’s a rainy Monday morning at Potomac Metals, a scrap yard just outside of Washington, D.C., as a customer climbs into the bed of his pickup truck and starts sorting odd scraps of metal into piles.

As he sorts, a worker weighs the piles then hands over cash for the metal. But the copper that would have brought $3 per pound three years ago yields just $1 per pound on this day.

Copper is one of the pillars of Arizona’s economy, but steadily falling demand on world markets has depressed prices and caused ripples that are felt in the state and as far away as this East Coast scrap yard.

In December, mining giant Freeport-McMoRan announced that the Sierrita open pit mine in Green Valley would be completely shut down. Just months before, the company said it would lay off about 430 workers at the mine, and would explore closing it completely. Freeport also announced the closure of the copper mine in Miami, north of Tucson, and a 50-percent cut in production at its Tyrone mine near Silver City, N.M.

All told, more than 1,000 Arizona copper workers were soon be on the unemployment line.

But a company planning a large open-pit mine in the mountains southeast of Tucson is forging ahead.

Patrick Merrin, vice president of the Rosemont Mine project, said plans for that copper mine will not be derailed by short-term slides in the market. He said mine owner Hudbay remains committed to Rosemont and to “providing a much-needed economic boost, and operating in a safe and sustainable way.”

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