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BHP Billiton to Initiate Closure of San Manuel Plantsite

27 October 2003

BHP Billiton today announced the transition of its BHP Copper Inc. idled San Manuel smelting and refining facilities from care and maintenance status to permanent closure.  The facilities were placed into care and maintenance in May 1999 and have been idle since that time.  

BHP Billiton has explored a number of options for the facilities, however none have led to a viable economic outcome.  This announcement marks the end of 50 years of mining and smelting activity in San Manuel, Arizona.

The transition to full closure will not result in a significant reduction in manpower, since the current workforce is less than 40.  The remaining workforce will focus on safety and environmental issues related to the closure.

President, BHP Copper Inc., Ben Wichers, said that transitioning of the plant site to closure would enable the company to implement a comprehensive approach to both the mine site, closed in January, 2002, and the plant site.

“The company’s continuing commitment to the protection of the environment and safety will be central to the closure process for these historic sites,” Mr Wichers said.

The decommissioning and reclamation of the sites will be completed over the next five to seven years in cooperation with the appropriate regulatory agencies.

“We recognize the impact this will have on the community and we are committed to continuing to work with the people who are affected,” Mr Wichers said.

Over the period of 50 years, the San Manuel smelter and mine have undergone major changes.  The San Manuel facilities were first established in the 1940’s. In 1952, Magma Copper Company constructed the mine, plant, railroads and started developing the community of San Manuel.  By 1972, the mine was processing more than 60,000 tons of ore per day.  By the 1990’s, the operation included an open pit, solvent extraction-electrowinning operation, an in-situ leaching process, underground sulfide mine, concentrator, smelter, refinery and rod plant.  In May 1999, a decision was made to curtail all operations at San Manuel due to low copper prices.

For more information contact:
Jeff Parker, San Manuel, Manager of Environmental and External Affairs
Tel: +1 520 385-3581