Freeport-McMoRan - A Commitment to Conservation, from One Side of the World to the Other.

August 7, 2018
Wildlife Habitat Council


A green tree python at PTFI in Papua, Indonesia.

A member of WHC since 2006, Freeport-McMoRan engages in 15 WHC Conservation Certification programs in the U.S., Chile, Peru and Indonesia. Eleven of these programs have achieved Gold-Certified status, signifying excellence in on-the-ground conservation activities. Two of its most recent WHC Gold-Certified programs demonstrate how the mining industry can support a high level of value for both biodiversity and community.

Unidad de Producción Cerro Verde, Arequipa Region, Peru
The Unidad de Producción Cerro Verde mine site sits on over 154,000 acres of land just southwest of Peru’s second-largest city, Arequipa. The property is located in the world’s driest desert, the Atacama Desert, and is home to a unique community of plants and animals adapted to the hyperarid conditions. Nearly 40% of the land (59,000 acres) is managed as habitat for biodiversity by a diverse team of site personnel.

An oasis hummingbird at Unidad de Producción Cerro Verde in Peru.

Freeport-McMoRan employees take measures to protect from operations and manage areas of the site that are home to Weberbauer cacti, which are an important source of food for many species in the region. The cacti are also propagated and induced to flower for the Peruvian long-snouted bats, which feed on the nectar and provide the cactus with pollination services. The bats’ pollination improves fruit production for species such as reptiles and guanacos, a species of camelid closely related to llamas. Guanacos eating the fruits, in turn, helps spread the seeds of this species. In addition, individual cacti are relocated away from mine-impacted areas, which prevents these species from being attracted to operational areas where they may be harmed.

Several of the site’s conservation projects have been recognized with WHC Awards, including a long-running and comprehensive project to protect and manage habitat for the Peruvian long-snouted bat. In addition to managing the bats’ food sources, employees have used bat gates since 2006 to keep predators and human traffic away from the mine tunnels where they roost. Operations such as blasting that may disturb bats are also avoided near the bats’ tunnels to prevent disturbance.

Joining these unique species in the Atacama Desert are several lizard species, including the tiger Pacific iguana and the South American leaf-toed gecko, as well as avian species like the black metaltail hummingbird, the cactus canastero, and the white-throated earthcreeper. Biodiversity management efforts for these species include relocation to safer areas of the property, control of non-native rodents and feral dogs that compete for resources, enhancement of water and food sources, and monitoring and data collection to inform future conservation activities.

Freeport-McMoRan, PT Freeport Indonesia, Grasberg, Papua Region, Indonesia
PT Freeport Indonesia’s (PTFI) Grasberg mine is the world’s second-biggest copper and gold mine. Located on 740,000 acres in Papua, Indonesia, the area in which the mine operates straddles diverse and rich ecosystems, ranging from sea level to 4,200 meters above sea level. Ecosystems include mangrove forest, freshwater swamp forest, lowland tropical rain forest, heath forest and montane forest, with 90% of the area consisting of unimpacted natural ecosystems with high levels of biodiversity.

Due to the local abundance of endemic flora and fauna, Papua’s plant and wildlife species often become the targets of illegal trade. To combat this, PTFI and several partners developed a program with officials at Lorentz National Park to repatriate endemic Papuan wildlife confiscated from illegal wildlife traders. Between 2011 and 2016, PTFI repatriated 10,865 pig-nosed turtles, 63 birds, 11 pademelons and 1 spotted cuscus back to their natural habitat in Papua.

A tree farm at PTFI, Papua, Indonesia.

PTFI also initiated an effort to recolonize native species in several of the site’s ecosystems, including tropical forest, subalpine and mangrove habitats. So far, employees and community volunteers have planted over 200,000 mangrove seedlings on Ajkwa and Waii Islands in the Akjwa Estuary, and visitors to the site are encouraged to mark their visit by planting trees through the “One Man Two Trees” program. In addition, community members are engaged through annual public events such as Earth Day, World Environment Day and Indonesia Independence Day.

Conservation education is another important component of the PTFI program. Education activities focus on building environmental stewardship capacity in the local community and the PTFI workforce. Learners explore local ecology at the site’s jungle trail, herbarium, butterfly sanctuary, botanical garden and revegetation locations. Local high school and college students participate in internships on-site, during which they build field skills and conduct research in areas such as native plant propagation, integrated pest management, reclamation and biodiversity. Training in conservation stewardship is also offered to economically vulnerable members of the community, and off-site programming for both teachers and students is provided to more than 75 schools.

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