Freeport's Conservation Work Takes Top Honors at Wildlife Habitat Council Awards

July 13, 2023

Projects to protect species and habitats at company sites in New Mexico, Arizona and Louisiana received individual awards for contributions to the environment and education.

Freeport-McMoRan’s work to manage habitats, protect species and promote conservation education has earned it top honors in the recent Wildlife Habitat Council Awards. 

The company received the WHC’s 2023 Corporate Conservation Leadership Award, presented annually to a single company to recognize its achievement in conservation efforts. The award “signifies an exemplary level of corporate commitment to biodiversity and conservation education, and meaningful alignments with global conservation objectives,” according to the organization’s website. 

In addition to the companywide honor, three Freeport sites received individual awards for their local projects to protect vulnerable species and their habitats.

“Responsible management of wildlife and their habitats are part of the company’s focus on responsible production while also allowing us to be a positive force in the communities where we operate,” said Bill Cobb, Vice President and Chief Sustainability Officer. “I'm very pleased that the WHC, with these prestigious awards, has recognized the hard work and dedication of Freeport’s employees at our numerous certified sites. That work has clearly resulted in significant accomplishments in environmental stewardship and protection of wildlife, as well as local STEM education.”  

Sites receiving WHC awards: 

  • New Mexico’s Tyrone operations received the Species of Concern Project Award for its collaboration with the U.S. Forest Service and other local stakeholders to monitor and manage the Southwestern Willow Flycatcher. Tyrone has implemented practices such as increased irrigation along the Gila River to stimulate expansion of the riparian habitat and managing grazing leases it controls to protect the ecosystem that supports the birds. Tyrone has been involved in flycatcher habitat protection efforts since the 1990s.
  • Tohono’s management of a decant line at the long-closed mine on the Tohono O’odham Nation in Arizona to benefit the California Leaf-Nosed Bat received the Bat Project Award. The decant line – basically a large pipe buried in the ground – has become an important habitat for the bats and serves as a maternity roost for the local population. The company has erected cupolas at either end of the pipe to protect the openings so bats can come and go while still being protected. Tohono staff have been working with Bat Conservation International to monitor and manage the bat population since 2007. 
  • Port Nickel’s restoration of bottomland hardwood habitats along the Mississippi River in Louisiana was recognized with the Formal Learning Project Award. High school students assist in planting native wetland species and learn how to identify invasive species as part of the project. Students also learn other technical skills, such as data collection and monitoring water quality.

To receive the Corporate Conservation Leadership Award, the company had to demonstrate a deep-seated corporate commitment to conservation, community outreach and education, said Ann George, Senior Scientist, Biodiversity and Sustainability.  

While this is the first year Freeport has received the corporate conservation honor, individual company sites are regularly recognized in annual WHC project-level awards, George said. Eight sites were recertified in 2022. They are the three that received awards plus the operations at Safford, Henderson, El Abra, Fort Madison and the Copper Queen Branch in Bisbee. All eight received WHC’s Gold Tier certification, the highest level of certification from WHC. 

Freeport has 17 certified programs through the WHC globally, including 14 in North America, both South American sites and PT-Freeport Indonesia. Of those, 15 are gold certified and two are silver, the second tier of recognition.

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