Wildcatting geologist followed intuition to earth’s natural resources, drew ire of environmental groups
James “Jim Bob” Moffett, an oil wildcatter turned mining prospector who helped build Freeport-McMoRan Inc. into a natural-resources giant, has died at age 82.
Mr. Moffett died on Friday night in Austin, Texas. His health had declined in recent years, and he had contracted Covid-19, according to his older son, James R. “Bubba” Moffett Jr.
A former football player at the University of Texas, Mr. Moffett parlayed a geology degree into fast riches as he showed an affinity for finding oil and natural gas in Louisiana. Oilmen such as William “Tex” Moncrief Jr. and the late T. Boone Pickens Jr. recognized him as one of America’s great wildcatters, now a rare breed.
But his biggest success came as a minerals prospector in 1988, with the discovery of vast deposits of gold and copper at Freeport’s Grasberg mine in Indonesia, which became the world’s largest and most profitable gold mine.
A larger-than-life personality, Mr. Moffett was fond of impersonating Elvis Presley, framing things in football terminology and tipping golf caddies, barbers and waiters with crisp $100 bills. Mr. Moffett was also a shrewd negotiator, with an eye for detail and no small supply of ambition.
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