April 1998

Best of Both Worlds: Helping to Create a Good Environment to do Business

Copper Applications in Health & Environment Area

This article was written by the Phelps Dodge Corporation, 2600 North Central Avenue, Phoenix, Arizona 85004-3014.

All businesses are under intense environmental scrutiny these days. At Phelps Dodge, environmental stewardship is not just a legal obligation. It is a competitive advantage.

"What's good for the environment can be good for our business, too," said Leo Pruett, director of environmental services and assistant general counsel, Phelps Dodge Corporation. "For example, by designing appropriate containment systems, we can eliminate many future waste problems, such as costly soil and groundwater cleanups. This results in long-term payback, as well as environmental benefits.

Another way environmental practices can save money is through ongoing environmental assessment programs at existing Phelps Dodge facilities and "due diligence" reviews for facilities the company is considering buying or selling. As part of the due diligence process, the Phelps Dodge Environmental Services Department conducts painstaking research to identify future environmental liabilities so they are addressed before they become costly problems for the company.

One of the greatest environmental challenges Phelps Dodge faces is managing the increasing costs associated with environmental compliance and lengthy permitting processes. That makes it increasingly important to find cost-effective ways to deal with environmental concerns. The environmental services team stays apprised of changing environmental technology and regulations, conveys that information to environmental staffs at Phelps Dodge facilities, and seeks to improve the company's environmental performance through technological advances and process improvements.

The Best of Both Worlds

Phelps Dodge is committed to being an environmental leader worldwide. International growth is both an incredible challenge and a unique opportunity for the company.

Pruett explained that when beginning operations in a new country, the corporate environmental staff must learn local regulations, enforcement practices and environmental priorities. At the same time, the local staff at the new facility must learn Phelps Dodge's environmental policies and expectations.

One important issue that must be addressed is: What level of regulation should we adhere to at our international locations? For example, what if local regulations are less stringent than U.S. regulations? Should only local requirements be met, or should U.S. requirements be imposed on international operations? Environmental services has resolved the issue by using a "best of both worlds" policy to ensure environmental protection.

"We take what we have learned at our existing facilities and transfer that knowledge as best management practices to each new facility, no matter where it is located, to make it as environmentally protective as possible," Pruett said.

An Educational Role

Education plays a key role in the company's environmental policy.

"Our stakeholders, investors and the communities in which we conduct our business expect nothing less than world-class environmental performance," Pruett said. "We have a good story to tell about the great environmental things we are doing."

Environmental professionals from the corporate office and the company's operations often attend public forums to communicate responsible stewardship of natural resources and the environment. They build trust and awareness by attending public scoping meetings to educate citizens about environmental issues relating to new or expanded projects.

One highly successful example of an education effort is in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada, where the staff at Columbian Chemicals conducted open houses and plant tours to educate residents and regulators about its air pollution control strategy. As a result of Hamilton's technology upgrades and open-door policy, Canada's Ministry of the Environment has recognized the plant as "an environmental model of the industry."

A Collaborative Effort

Phelps Dodge's partnerships with international, national and local organizations also inform stakeholders of current environmental issues. Environmental managers from New Mexico Operations and corporate staff participate in the New Mexico "Truth & Partnership" program. Initiated by the New Mexico Environmental Department, the program was designed to streamline environmental permitting in the state through a consensus process involving the community and regulators. The collaboration benefits Phelps Dodge's relationship with New Mexico and the state's environment.

Taking the lead to educate the public on critical environmental issues, Phelps Dodge forged a partnership with the Western Governors Association to heighten awareness of the Abandoned Mined Land Initiative. Through the cooperation of states, academic institutions and the mining industry, the program was developed to evaluate and rehabilitate abandoned mined lands throughout the United States.

Phelps Dodge's Environmental Policy

At the core of the Environmental Services Department's activity and the foundation for upholding strict environmental standards is Phelps Dodge's Environmental Policy. It dictates the corporation's participation in the legislative process, directs how resources will be allocated and guides decisions at all levels.

Because there is so much misinformation about environmental issues conveyed to the public, Pruett says the environmental policy helps to ensure employees have a clear understanding and a sense of pride about Phelps Dodge's environmental practices and policies.

"Our reputation is our greatest asset, and having a reputation for environmentally responsible operations is something all employees at Phelps Dodge must work toward in everything we do, wherever on the globe we operate."

Examples of outstanding environmental protection practices at Phelps Dodge facilities include:

  • Phelps Dodge Candelaria's state-of-the-art concentrate loading facility and water protection system at its port facility in Punta Padrones, Chile, which is the recipient of several awards for advanced environmental technology
  • The technologically advanced air and waste management systems currently being installed at the new Phelps Dodge Magnet Wire facility in Monterrey, Mexico
  • The Verde Valley Ranch, Ariz., development project which will include capping a historic tailing pile, and installing a new waste water treatment facility and recreational facilities
  • A state-of-the-art rail car unloading facility at Phelps Dodge Tyrone, which results in a 90-percent reduction in the number of trucks carrying sulfuric acid through the New Mexico communities of Silver City, Hurley, Tyrone, Santa Clara and Bayard
  • The preparation of an Aquifer Protection Permit application at Phelps Dodge Morenci for the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality, outlining the measures implemented to protect surface and groundwater.

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