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ASARCO LLC is a mining, smelting, and refining company based in Tucson, Arizona that mines and processes primarily copper. The company, a subsidiary of Grupo México, is currently in Chapter 11 bankruptcy. ASARCO plans to emerge from bankruptcy in 2008, and opposes calls for it to totally liquidate its mining and industrial assets.[1]

Its three largest open pit mines are the Mission, Silver Bell and the Ray mines in Arizona. Its mines produce 350 to 400 million pounds of copper a year. ASARCO conducts solvent extraction/electrowinning at the Ray and Silver Bell mines in Pima County, Arizona and Pinal County, Arizona and a smelter in Hayden, Arizona. Before its smelting plant in El Paso, Texas was suspended in 1999 it was producing 1 billion pounds of anodes each year. Refining at the mines as well as at a copper refinery in Amarillo, Texas produce 375 million pounds of refined copper each year.

ASARCO's hourly workers are primarily represented by the United Steelworkers.

ASARCO has 20 superfund sites across the United States, and it is subject to considerable litigation over pollution.

As of September 2009, ASARCO was the focus of a bidding war begun in May 2008 between its own parent company Grupo México and India-based Sterlite Industries. On August 31, 2009, U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Richard Schmidt recommended that U.S. District Judge Andrew Hanen accept Grupo México's $2.5 billion bid for ASARCO as it prepares to come out of bankruptcy. However, on September 11, Sterlite increased its bid from $2.14 billion to $2.57 billion and requested that the court evaluate its new offer before issuing a final decision.[2]

Contents

History

ASARCO mine, Garfield, Utah, 1942

ASARCO was founded in 1899 as the American Smelting And Refining Company by Henry H. Rogers, William Rockefeller, Adolph Lewisohn and Leonard Lewisohn. From 1901-1958, American Smelting and Refining was a member of the Dow Jones Industrial Average.

In 1901 Meyer Guggenheim and his sons took over the company.

In 1916, 17 ASARCO employees were killed and mutilated by Pancho Villa's men, one of the incidents that sparked the US Military's Punitive Expedition against Villa.

In 1975 it officially changed its name to ASARCO Incorporated. In 1999 it was acquired by Grupo México, which itself began as ASARCO's 49%-owned Mexican subsidiary in 1965, and on August 9, 2005, the company filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in Corpus Christi, Texas under then-president Daniel Tellechea.

Pollution and environmental issues

ASARCO has been found responsible for environmental pollution at 20 Superfund sites across the U.S. by the Environmental Protection Agency. Those sites are:

  1. Interstate Lead Company, or ILCO, labeled EPA Site ALD041906173, and located in Leeds, Jefferson County, Alabama[3]
  2. Argo Smelter, Omaha & Grant Smelter, labeled EPA Site COD002259588, and located at Vasquez Boulevard and I-70 in Denver, Colorado[4]
  3. Lowry Landfill, labeled EPA Site COD980499248, and located at 4200 South Gun Club Road in Aurora, Arapahoe County, Colorado[5]
  4. California Gulch mine and river systems in Leadville, Colorado;
  5. Summitville Consolidated Mining Corp., Inc. (SCMCI), now bankrupt, EPA Site COD983778432, in Del Norte, Rio Grande County, Colorado;
  6. ASARCO Globe Plant, EPA Site COD007063530, Globeville, near South Platte River, Denver and Adams County, Colorado;
  7. Bunker Hill Mining and Metallurgical, Coeur d'Alene River Basin, Idaho;
  8. Circle Smelting Corporation in Illinois;
  9. NL Industries/Taracorp lead smelter in Illinois;
  10. Cherokee County lead and zinc mine and surrounding area in Kansas;
  11. Oronogo-Duenweg mining belt in Missouri;
  12. East Helena smelter and surrounding residences in Montana;
  13. Kin-Buc Landfill in New Jersey;
  14. Tar Creek (Ottawa County) iron and zinc operations and surrounding residences in Oklahoma;
  15. Tonolli Corporation smelter in Pennsylvania;
  16. Ross Metals smelter and surface water in Tennessee;
  17. Murray smelter in Utah;
  18. Richardson Flat tailings in Utah;
  19. Commencement Bay, Near Shore/Tide Flats smelter, groundwater, and residences in Tacoma and Ruston, Washington.
  20. Former location of South side Park in Chicago, old home of the Chicago White Sox

Litigation history

The first environmental lawsuit was brought against Asarco in 1910 by a group of farmers in Solano County, California for the sulfur dioxide emissions from the company's San Francisco Bay smelter. The court granted an injunction that shut down the smelter, and the decision was upheld by the California Supreme Court. One of Asarco's lawyers then got a committee appointed, which included a company-appointed chemist, which led to a settlement that limited the smelter's release of sulfur dioxide to 30 tons per day. The settlement did not address lead, and scores of horses died of chronic lead exposure in the area in the following decades.

United States v. Asarco rulings have been unfavorable to the company in Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, Kansas, Montana, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, and Washington.

In the 1970s, a study by Philip J. Landrigan for the Centers for Disease Control found the ASARCO smelter in El Paso, Texas was responsible for abnormally high lead levels in children who lived nearby. The city won a lawsuit against the company and, although denying guilt, ASARCO agreed to strict monitoring for lead, zinc, cadmium, and arsenic releases as well as to provide medical exams and blood therapy to children with lead poisoning.

After the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment sued ASARCO for damages to natural resources in 1983, the EPA placed the ASARCO Globe Plant on its National Priorities List, with ASARCO to pay for the site's cleanup.[6]

ASARCO consolidated several plants at the corner of 5th & Douglas Streets in Downtown Omaha on April 4, 1889. Within 25 years it was the largest lead refinery in the world. In 1972 the plant was found to be releasing high amounts of lead into the air and ground surrounding the plant. In 1995 ASARCO submitted a demolition and site cleanup plan to the Nebraska Department of Environmental Quality for their impact on the local residential area. Fined $3.6 million in 1996 for discharging lead and other pollutants into the Missouri River, Omaha's ASARCO plant was closed in July, 1997.[7] After extensive site cleanup, the land was turned over to the City of Omaha as a 23-acre (93,000 m2) park. All of North Omaha, comprising more than 8,000 acres (32 km²), was declared a Superfund site, and as of 2003, 290 acres (1.2 km²) had been cleaned.[8]

In January 2003, ASARCO and the Environmental Protection Agency set up a trust fund of $100 million to help pay for the company's environmental clean-up costs. Actual estimated costs for clean-up were between $500 million and $1 billion, as of 2006.

One stated reason for declaring bankruptcy was the number of pending lawsuits (Daniel Tellechea identified "numerous environmental-related lawsuits brought by governmental authorities and private parties"). Asarco had more than 100 civil environmental cases pending against it when it filed for bankruptcy.

In January 2003, nearly 3 years prior to the bankruptcy filing, Asarco sold its interest in Southern Peru Copper to Grupo México for $765 million. This transaction was reviewed and approved by the U.S. Department of Justice. $100 million of the proceeds from this transaction were used to establish the aforementioned environmental remediation fund. Due to the historically low copper prices prevailing in late 2002, contemporary independent valuation reports show that Grupo México paid a 20% premium to fair market value to acquire the Southern Peru Copper interest. Following the ASARCO bankruptcy, Grupo México's profits rose sharply (along with ASARCO's and every other copper mining firm in the world), due primarily to the 500% rise in the market price of copper from January 2003 to today. Half of this increase occurred in the 18 months immediately following Asarco's bankruptcy filing.

In 2007, the Environmental Protection Agency released the results of soil and air tests in Hayden, Arizona taken adjacent to the ASARCO Hayden Smelter. The results showed abnormally high amounts of pollutants that violate prescribed health standards. Arsenic, lead and copper were among the most egregious pollutants found in Hayden. As a consequence of the contamination, the EPA proposed to add Hayden, Arizona to the list of Federal "Superfund" sites. This action would provide funding to clean up the contamination.

ASARCO is presently fighting this action, supported by Democratic Gov. Janet Napolitano, who said: "I am asking that the EPA delay final decision on listing until March 31, 2008. This would provide ample time for the EPA, in close coordination with ADEQ,[9] to enter an agreement with ASARCO to conduct remedial actions..."

References

See also

External links

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File:Asarco Mission
The ASARCO Mission Complex near Tucson, Arizona.

ASARCO LLC is a mining, smelting, and refining company based in Tucson, Arizona that mines and processes primarily copper. The company, a subsidiary of Grupo México, is currently in Chapter 11 bankruptcy. ASARCO planned to emerge from bankruptcy in 2008, and opposes calls for it to totally liquidate its mining and industrial assets.[1]

Its three largest open pit mines are the Mission, Silver Bell and the Ray mines in Arizona. Its mines produce 350 to 400 million pounds of copper a year. ASARCO conducts solvent extraction/electrowinning at the Ray and Silver Bell mines in Pima County, Arizona and Pinal County, Arizona and a smelter in Hayden, Arizona. Before its smelting plant in El Paso, Texas was suspended in 1999 it was producing 1 billion pounds of anodes each year. Refining at the mines as well as at a copper refinery in Amarillo, Texas produce 375 million pounds of refined copper each year.

ASARCO's hourly workers are primarily represented by the United Steelworkers.

ASARCO has 20 superfund sites across the United States, and it is subject to considerable litigation over pollution.

As of September 2009, ASARCO was the focus of a bidding war begun in May 2008 between its own parent company Grupo México and India-based Sterlite Industries. On August 31, 2009, U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Richard Schmidt recommended that U.S. District Judge Andrew Hanen accept Grupo México's $2.5 billion bid for ASARCO as it prepares to come out of bankruptcy. However, on September 11, Sterlite increased its bid from $2.14 billion to $2.57 billion and requested that the court evaluate its new offer before issuing a final decision.[2]

Contents

History

ASARCO was founded in 1899 as the American Smelting And Refining Company by Henry H. Rogers, William Rockefeller, Adolph Lewisohn and Leonard Lewisohn. From 1901-1958, American Smelting and Refining was a member of the Dow Jones Industrial Average.

In 1901 Meyer Guggenheim and his sons took over the company.

In 1916, eighteen ASARCO employees were killed and mutilated by Pancho Villa's men near the town of Santa Isabel, Chihuahua, one of the incidents that sparked the American military's punitive expedition against Villa. It was also part of the Border War from 1910 to 1918.

In 1975 it officially changed its name to ASARCO Incorporated. In 1999 it was acquired by Grupo México, which itself began as ASARCO's 49%-owned Mexican subsidiary in 1965, and on August 9, 2005, the company filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in Corpus Christi, Texas under then-president Daniel Tellechea.

Pollution and environmental issues

ASARCO has been found responsible for environmental pollution at 20 Superfund sites across the U.S. by the Environmental Protection Agency. Those sites are:

  1. Interstate Lead Company, or ILCO, labeled EPA Site ALD041906173, and located in Leeds, Jefferson County, Alabama[3]
  2. Argo Smelter, Omaha & Grant Smelter, labeled EPA Site COD002259588, and located at Vasquez Boulevard and I-70 in Denver, Colorado[4]
  3. Lowry Landfill, labeled EPA Site COD980499248, and located at 4200 South Gun Club Road in Aurora, Arapahoe County, Colorado[5]
  4. California Gulch mine and river systems in Leadville, Colorado;
  5. Summitville Consolidated Mining Corp., Inc. (SCMCI), now bankrupt, EPA Site COD983778432, in Del Norte, Rio Grande County, Colorado;
  6. ASARCO Globe Plant, EPA Site COD007063530, Globeville, near South Platte River, Denver and Adams County, Colorado;
  7. Bunker Hill Mining and Metallurgical, Coeur d'Alene River Basin, Idaho;
  8. Circle Smelting Corporation in Illinois;
  9. NL Industries/Taracorp lead smelter in Illinois;
  10. Cherokee County lead and zinc mine and surrounding area in Kansas;
  11. Oronogo-Duenweg mining belt in Missouri;
  12. East Helena smelter and surrounding residences in Montana;
  13. Kin-Buc Landfill in New Jersey;
  14. Tar Creek (Ottawa County) lead and zinc operations and surrounding residences in Oklahoma;
  15. Tonolli Corporation smelter in Pennsylvania;
  16. Ross Metals smelter and surface water in Tennessee;
  17. Murray smelter in Utah;
  18. Richardson Flat tailings in Utah;
  19. Commencement Bay, Near Shore/Tide Flats smelter, groundwater, and residences in Tacoma and Ruston, Washington.
  20. Former location of South side Park in Chicago, old home of the Chicago White Sox

Litigation history

The first environmental lawsuit was brought against Asarco in 1910 by a group of farmers in Solano County, California for the sulfur dioxide emissions from the company's San Francisco Bay smelter. The court granted an injunction that shut down the smelter, and the decision was upheld by the California Supreme Court. One of Asarco's lawyers then got a committee appointed, which included a company-appointed chemist, which led to a settlement that limited the smelter's release of sulfur dioxide to 30 tons per day. The settlement did not address lead, and scores of horses died of chronic lead exposure in the area in the following decades.[citation needed]

United States v. Asarco rulings have been unfavorable to the company in Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, Kansas, Montana, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, and Washington.

In the 1970s, a study by Philip J. Landrigan for the Centers for Disease Control found the ASARCO smelter in El Paso, Texas was responsible for abnormally high lead levels in children who lived nearby. The city won a lawsuit against the company and, although denying guilt, ASARCO agreed to strict monitoring for lead, zinc, cadmium, and arsenic releases as well as to provide medical exams and blood therapy to children with lead poisoning.

After the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment sued ASARCO for damages to natural resources in 1983, the EPA placed the ASARCO Globe Plant on its National Priorities List, with ASARCO to pay for the site's cleanup.[6]

ASARCO consolidated several plants at the corner of 5th & Douglas Streets in Downtown Omaha on April 4, 1889. Within 25 years it was the largest lead refinery in the world. In 1972 the plant was found to be releasing high amounts of lead into the air and ground surrounding the plant. In 1995 ASARCO submitted a demolition and site cleanup plan to the Nebraska Department of Environmental Quality for their impact on the local residential area. Fined $3.6 million in 1996 for discharging lead and other pollutants into the Missouri River, Omaha's ASARCO plant was closed in July, 1997.[7] After extensive site cleanup, the land was turned over to the City of Omaha as a 23-acre (93,000 m2) park. All of North Omaha, comprising more than 8,000 acres (32 km²), was declared a Superfund site, and as of 2003, 290 acres (1.2 km²) had been cleaned.[8]

In January 2003, ASARCO and the Environmental Protection Agency set up a trust fund of $100 million to help pay for the company's environmental clean-up costs. Actual estimated costs for clean-up were between $500 million and $1 billion, as of 2006.

One stated reason for declaring bankruptcy was the number of pending lawsuits (Daniel Tellechea identified "numerous environmental-related lawsuits brought by governmental authorities and private parties"). Asarco had more than 100 civil environmental cases pending against it when it filed for bankruptcy.

In January 2003, nearly 3 years prior to the bankruptcy filing, Asarco sold its interest in Southern Peru Copper to Grupo México for $765 million. This transaction was reviewed and approved by the U.S. Department of Justice. $100 million of the proceeds from this transaction were used to establish the aforementioned environmental remediation fund. Due to the historically low copper prices prevailing in late 2002, contemporary independent valuation reports show that Grupo México paid a 20% premium to fair market value to acquire the Southern Peru Copper interest. Following the ASARCO bankruptcy, Grupo México's profits rose sharply (along with ASARCO's and every other copper mining firm in the world), due primarily to the 500% rise in the market price of copper from January 2003 to today. Half of this increase occurred in the 18 months immediately following Asarco's bankruptcy filing.

In 2007, the Environmental Protection Agency released the results of soil and air tests in Hayden, Arizona taken adjacent to the ASARCO Hayden Smelter. The results showed abnormally high amounts of pollutants that violate prescribed health standards. Arsenic, lead and copper were among the most egregious pollutants found in Hayden. As a consequence of the contamination, the EPA proposed to add Hayden, Arizona to the list of Federal "Superfund" sites. This action would provide funding to clean up the contamination. ASARCO is presently fighting this action, supported by Democratic Gov. Janet Napolitano, who said: "I am asking that the EPA delay final decision on listing until March 31, 2008. This would provide ample time for the EPA, in close coordination with ADEQ,[9] to enter an agreement with ASARCO to conduct remedial actions..."

Documentary

At least one site that ASARCO has worked and contaminated was featured in documentary form. Tar Creek was made by Matt Myers in 2009 about the Tar Creek Superfund site. At one time, Tar Creek was considered to be the worst environmental problem on the list of more than 1200 sites.

References

See also

External links


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