KGUN 9News


Sierrita mine closure will affect UA students

Posted at 7:07 PM, Dec 10, 2015
TUCSON (KGUN9-TV) - The recently announced closure of Freeport-McMoRan's Sierrita location will have an effect on some University of Arizona students.
Mary Poulton, Director of the Lowell Institute for Mineral Resources at the UA, said Freeport-McMaRon is the top employer of students graduating from the Mining and Geological Engineering program. 
She said it will be more difficult for these students to find jobs after graduation now, but they will just have to market themselves.
"They have a lot of things to offer companies outside of the traditional mining operating companies and so they just have to look, but in reality the jobs are there for them," said Poulton. "They've got a great skill set from engineering management, construction management, all the way through to big data."
Poulton said she also expects the price of copper to increase starting next year, which would be good for the industry. 
"In fact, if you look at the forecast of supply and demand, it looks like we're going to be short on supply by 2018," said Poulton. Low supply means higher demand, which means a higher price. 
Poulton said each economic upturn and downturn usually lasts between 5-7 years. She said copper prices began decreasing in 2011, which means we should be near the end of this downturn. 
"Any time you see a major economic upturn, copper is there with a price increase. And any time you see a global downturn, copper reflects that and goes down in price," said Poulton.
She said the price decline is effected by a slow in Chinese infrastructure development because China had accounted for about 45% of copper consumption since the start of the 21st century. 
Poulton said the other contributing factor in the copper price decline is a strong U.S. dollar. 
"All commodity prices are denominated in U.S. dollars. So when the dollar is strong all commodity prices fall," said Poulton. 
In October, Freeport announced a 50% reduction in staff, which is about 580 employees.
Wednesday, Freeport-McMoRan announced plans to shutdown operations of the Sierrita Mine near Green Valley. That announcement means that six months from now about 450 employees will be let go.