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Key Facts

Commodity Copper

Arizona, USA
Nearest Landmark: SAFFORD
Distance: 10 km N of Landmark 
Latitude: 32° 56' (North)
Longitude: 109° 39' (West)


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Owners Freeport McMoran Copper & Gold Inc.
Operator Freeport McMoran

Copper - 150.7 Mlbs (2011)

Deposit Type Porphyry copper
Reserves & Resources

Copper - 1.6 billion lbs (Dec 31, 2011, proven & probable)

Mine Type Surface
Mining Method Open pit
Processing Method SX/EW
Mine Life To 2036
Mining Equipment Caterpillar (Cat) 793D 260- ton (17); P&H 2800XPB electric rope shovel (1); 44 cu yd 2800XPB electric rope shovel (4); Terex O&K RH 340 hydraulic excavator (1); Cat 994 loader (1)
Processing equipment Metso 48 x 60-in. C160 jaw crusher (1); Metso MP1000 cone crushers (6); leach pads; SX/EW circuit
Employees  650 (2011)
Contact Information

8500 N. Freeport-McMoRan Rd
Safford, AZ   85546

Mine office phone# 928 792 5801


Freeport McMoran Mine Technology Group
1124 W Thatcher Blvd, STE 2
Safford,  AZ  85546-3170


Last updated: July 12, 2012


Safford is Freeport-McMoRan’s newest open-pit copper mining complex with the first copper production occurring in late 2007. The mine is located in Southeast Arizona, 170 miles east of Phoenix, near Safford, Arizona.

Safford was the first new large-scale copper mining project in Arizona in more than 30 years. The operation consists of two open pits feeding a crushing facility with a nominal capacity of 114,000 tons per day of crushed ore.

The Safford mine is a zero-discharge facility and one of the most environmentally advanced copper mines ever built. The new $150 million sulphur burner at Safford, which was completed in 2011, is providing a more cost-effective source of sulphuric acid used in SX/EW operations and lower transportation costs.

In 2011, the mine produced 150.7 million pounds copper.


Safford copper mine is located in southeast Arizona some 170 miles east of Phoenix. It is also 10 km north of the city of Safford at the base of Gila Mountains. The Safford operation encompasses approximately 10,100 hectares comprising 8476 hactares of patented lands, 1592 hectares of unpatented lands and 13 hectares of land held by federal permit.

Safford has a warm high desert climate, much hotter than most places in eastern Arizona due to its relatively low elevation of 900 m. The community is served by a freight rail line, the Arizona Eastern Railway, and hosts an air facility, Safford Regional Airport.

Due to Safford's relatively isolated position, the area has been chosen as a prime spot for hosting observatories. The nearby mountain is home to the Mount Graham International Observatory (MGIO) and Large Binocular Telescope, or LBT. It, when completed, will be the largest binocular telescope in the world. The mountain also is home to the Vatican Advanced Technology Telescope, or VATT. It is also home to the Heinrich Hertz Submillimeter Telescope, or SMT. The Mount Graham International Observatory complex is operated by the University of Arizona.

The city’s largest employer is Freeport McMoran.

Geology & Mineralization

The Safford mine consists of two porphyry copper deposits that have oxide mineralization overlaying primary copper sulfide mineralization. The predominant oxide copper minerals are chrysocolla and copper-bearing iron oxides with the predominant copper sulfide material being chalcopyrite.

End of 2011, mineral reserves were estimated at 1.6 billion pounds of copper.

Proven and probable reserves were estimated in December 2011 at 206 million tonnes grading 0.43% copper containing 1.6 billion pounds copper.

Mining & Operation

Safford is a conventional open pit mining operation that would mine two separate orebodies located about one mile one from another.

 Mining equipment include 17 Caterpillar (Cat) 793D 260- ton; one P&H 2800XPB electric rope shovel; four 44 cu yd 2800XPB electric rope shovels; one Terex O&K RH 340 hydraulic excavator; and a Cat 994 loader. Trucks are refurbished and were sourced from the company’s Bagdad mine and shovels from its Morenci mine.

Due to the fact that the mine is new and was built from the ground up Freeport was able to implement new advanced technologies.

A first for the mining industry is the introduction of ARDVARC fully autonomous surface rotary drills – the machine accurately and precisely positions itself on the design blast hole without human interaction and begins to drill the hole.

Ore fragmentation is optimized trough fragmentation by blasting with ANFO.

The automated heavy mining equipment is equipped with Terralite a ground-based navigation system. It is similar to a GPS system but operates through ground-based stations and ensures accuracy within two inches. The system makes the mining of the low grade deposit more cost effective and ensures the correct routing of ore and waste material.

All shovels, excavators, loaders and bulldozers are equipped with Cat’s CAES machine guidance system.

Shovels are equipped with ToothMetrics, a preventive vision system that monitors thethe condition of the buckets and prevent downstream equipment damage from broken tooth.

Another new technology is the mobile mesh radio voice and data communication system enables amongst others the acquisition of large amount of real-time data from the mine’s mobile equipment.


The two open pits are feeding a crushing facility with a capacity of 114,000 metric tons-per-day. The crushed ore is delivered to a single leach pad by a series of overland and portable conveyors. Leach solutions feed an SX/EW facility.

Low grade copper ore is leached with a weak acid solution and the resulting pregnant liquor is then contacted with an organic solvent referred as extractant (SX). This copper bearing organic phase is stripped of its copper by contacting it with a strongly acidified aqueous solution. The copper bearing solution is the subjected to an electrolytic process (electrowinning - EW) that produces metallic copper cathodes.

The Safford operations also include a sulphur burner.

Processing equipment include one Metso 48 x 60-in C160 jaw crusher, six Metso MP1000 cone crushers, leach pads and a SX/EW circuit.

Industrial and potable water is provided by on-site wells and an abandoned shaft from a defunct 1980s underground mine.

In 2011, the mine produced 150.7 million pounds of copper.

Environment & Community

Safford mine is a ‘zero discharge’ mining operation meaning that there would nothing else leaving the property other than copper cathode. Some 1.96 billion galons of groundwater are being used each year but that won’t impact the Gila River as they are not connected.

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