Freeport-McMoRan’s Focus on Protecting Biodiversity

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Freeport-McMoRan (Freeport), an International Copper Association (ICA) member, actively works to protect and conserve nature through implementing biodiversity initiatives, focusing on water efficiency and advancing its climate strategy. As a major global copper producer, the company takes a proactive approach to implement responsible practices at its copper mines and within its host communities.

Freeport implements environmentally responsible practices and applies the mitigation hierarchy approach. The mitigation hierarchy is a framework emphasizing best practices for managing biodiversity and ecosystems through the avoidance, minimization, restoration and offsetting of impacts. In alignment with the International Council on Mining Metal’s recently announced Nature Position Statement, Freeport and other member companies have committed to achieve No Net Loss compared to a 2020 baseline. Through this commitment and other strategic interventions, Freeport is working to demonstrate its commitment to the long-term health of the environment, responsibly stewarding its land throughout production and preparing for restoration at its operations’ end of life. By prioritizing biodiversity and nature, the company demonstrates its responsible, sustainable mining practices.

Biodiversity Initiatives

To date, Freeport has focused on species conservation, habitat restoration and partnerships for biodiversity. The company has been lauded for its responsible production practices, which include measures to avoid adverse impacts on critical habitats and endangered species. Freeport’s conservation efforts received multiple top awards from the Wildlife Habitat Council (WHC), an organization that certifies conservation, restoration and education efforts on corporate property. A member of the WHC since 2006, 17 of Freeport’s operations and facilities have been certified through the organization for their commitment to biodiversity management; as of 2023, 12 have received the highest possible level of recognition.

Species Conservation

Freeport has put measures in place to conserve biodiversity of species in the surroundings of their mining operations. One such initiative is the protection of Rocky Mountain Bighorn sheep at the Morenci mine, relocating them away from highways to areas where populations have dwindled, reducing dangerous human-wildlife interactions. The program received the Arizona Mining Association’s Sustainability, Preservation and Diversity in Environment (SPADE) Award.

In previous years, the company’s Morenci site in Arizona also received the award for its work on bat conservation. Beginning in 2010, Freeport collaborated with Bat Conservation International and other partners to protect Mexican free-tailed bats, a species in decline, at their Eagle Creek Bat Cave, one of the largest maternity roosts for this species in the southwest U.S. These bats sustain the local ecosystem, feeding on mosquitos and other crop-threatening insects. Freeport worked to support bat populations throughout their mine sites. At Sierrita, the company partnered with Bat Conservation International and the Borderlands Restoration Network to plant agave on the West Desert Trails. Agaves are native to the area and are an essential food source for nectar-feeding bat species. West Desert Trails is an 1,800-acre public recreation area owned by Freeport that attracts these species as they migrate between Central Mexico and the American southwest.

At its Miami and Bisbee sites, Freeport implemented a similar project to protect migrating monarch butterflies, working with local schools and volunteers to plant pollinator friendly native wildflowers, such as milkweed. Cross-continental migration is a rarity for insects, and monarch caterpillars will only feed on specific types of milkweeds. By providing resources along this migratory route, Freeport is helping to revive the declining population of monarch butterflies.

Freeport’s conservation programs have benefited species in South America as well, such as the guanaco, a native camelid closely related to the llama. In Peru, the government listed the guanaco as a critically endangered species, with a dwindling population of only 3,500 individuals. At the Cerro Verde mine, Freeport partnered with the International Union for Conservation of Nature to host international scientists and researchers to evaluate how the site could further guanaco conservation, implementing a program to protect and enhance the local population.

Habitat Restoration

In addition to conserving individual species, Freeport is involved in habitat restoration efforts in their operational areas. One example is the Salar de Ascotán region, where the company conserves a biologically diverse wetland habitat and salt flats. The company has created a sizeable greenhouse accommodating up to 15,000 plants to propagate plants native to the region to be replanted into the extreme climate of the salt flats. This is one part of the site’s Environmental Management Plan, which also includes soil studies, aerial monitoring and seed nursery conservation, along with partnership with the local indigenous Cebollar-Ascotán community on the salt flat water conservation.

Recently, the National Mining Hall of Fame and Museum developed an exhibition in conjunction with Freeport on responsible reclamation due to its notable conservation efforts related to one of its molybdenum operations, a copper byproduct. The permanent exhibition was developed to increase awareness of reclamation efforts and promote responsible practices in planning for a mine’s end of life in all areas, from vegetation, wildlife and insects to soil, water and air sampling.

Partnerships for Biodiversity

Freeports commitment to biodiversity extends to forging partnerships that drive conservation efforts. The company supports advancement of conservation research. A   rare species of ancient dog, the New Guinea Highland Wild Dog, was not extinct as previously believed. Discovered in the Papuan Highlands near Freeport’s Indonesian operations, the company provided funding and logistical support to track and study the genetic diversity of the dog, also known as the singing dog for its unique howl. In conjunction with local researchers from the University of Papua, the studies have been published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the U.S. and plans for future expeditions have been made. Freeport’s Indonesian operations have a long history of conserving local flora and fauna, as well as working with the government to prevent poaching. The company is also consulting local villagers to discuss their history and relationship with the singing dogs, as they have long been a part of local history and indigenous ancestral beliefs.

Freeport biodiversity initiatives demonstrate the company’s commitment to preserving the environment around its copper mines and regions, through species conservation, habitat restoration and partnerships for biodiversity. In an effort to support transparency, Freeport has committed to publishing Biodiversity Management Plans for four of its sites, which are expected to be publicly available later in 2024. The company’s ongoing efforts in biodiversity and nature restoration involve the continuous integration of responsible practices, targeted conservation projects, and global collaboration. These actions will contribute to fostering thriving environments around copper mines and will positively impact the regions where they operate for generations to come.

05 Marzo 2024

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