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News Release—

Phelps Dodge pleads guilty to violating bird act

Associated Press
Aug. 31, 2005 07:20 AM

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. - Phelps Dodge pleaded guilty Tuesday to a misdemeanor charge of violating the Migratory Bird Treaty Act after dozens of dead birds were found at one of the copper giant's operations in southwest New Mexico.

The U.S. attorney's office in Albuquerque said the Phoenix-based company agreed to pay a $15,000 fine and take corrective action to help stop the bird deaths at the Tyrone mine site as part of a plea agreement.

More than 70 birds were found dead at the site between September 2000 and December 2004, according to court documents. Since that time, more than 40 additional dead birds have been found.

The U.S. attorney's office said some of the impounded waters at the site contained acidic water from the mining process. Studies have shown that ingestion of sulfuric acid and copper solutions can be lethal to migratory birds.

As part of the plea agreement, Phelps Dodge will donate $15,000 to the Fish and Wildlife Foundation to be designated for avian habitat restoration or for migratory bird studies within the Gila River ecosystem.

Phelps Dodge also pleaded guilty to violating the bird act last August in Arizona after dozens of migratory birds died from drinking acidic water at the Morenci copper mine. As a preventative measure, the company spent more than $1 million to scare away birds with noisemakers and fake peregrine falcons.

August 11, 2004 at 6:46 AM MST

Copper giant to pay fine after birds die at Morenci mine

Phelps Dodge has agreed to pay a $15,000 federal fine after dozens of migratory birds died from drinking acidic water at its Morenci copper mine.

The Phoenix-based copper giant pleaded guilty earlier this week to violating the Migratory Bird Treaty Act.

As a preventative measure, the company is spending more than $1 million to scare away birds with noisemakers and fake peregrine falcons.

"We regret the bird mortality and we're committed to fully implementing the corrective action plan that's been outlined," said Phelps Dodge spokesman Ken Vaughn.

Authorities said the birds died from 2000 to 2003 and apparently drank from storm water that collected in the tailings area, or from a copper-bearing solution leached from crushed ore.

Under terms of the plea agreement disclosed Monday by the U.S. Justice Department, Phelps Dodge agreed to pay the maximum fine of $15,000 for one count of violating the bird treaty act.

The company will also donate $10,000 to one or more federally licensed bird rehabilitators for care of sick and injured birds, and will spend at least $80,000 to fund studies of creating or improving migratory bird habitat in the region.

The Morenci mine is the largest copper producer in North America.

Phelps Dodge also operates the Miami, Bagdad and Sierrita copper mines in Arizona, plus facilities in New Mexico and South America.

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