FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE|
MONDAY, AUGUST 9, 2004
TDD (202) 514-1888
PHELPS DODGE MORENCI, INC. PLEADS GUILTY TO VIOLATING THE MIGRATORY BIRD TREATY ACT
WASHINGTON -- Thomas Sansonetti, Assistant Attorney General for the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division announced today that Phelps Dodge Morenci, Inc., has pled guilty to a single misdemeanor count of violating the Migratory Bird Treaty Act in federal district court in Phoenix, Arizona. Specifically, the defendant was charged by information filed in open court today with taking or killing migratory birds in violation of the Act.
According to the information, over sixty birds were found dead on the Morenci Mine Site between October 2000 and March 2001. Since then, additional dead birds were found on the Site. The information charges Phelps Dodge Morenci, Inc., with the deaths of forty-three birds identified as being migratory species protected under the Act.
Some of the impounded waters on the site, near which the dead birds were found, contained acidic waters resulting from the mining process. Laboratory studies have demonstrated that ingestion of sulfuric acid and copper solutions is lethal to migratory birds.
Under the terms of the plea agreement, Phelps Dodge Morenci, Inc. has agreed to pay the maximum fine of $15,000 for one count of violating the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. The agreement also incorporates a Corrective Action Plan identifying significant actions Phelps Dodge Morenci, Inc. has agreed to undertake, and in many instances already has completed, as a condition of its probation with the goal of ending the bird deaths at the Morenci Mine Site.
Further, Phelps Dodge Morenci, Inc. has agreed to donate $10,000 to one or more federally-licensed bird rehabilitators to care for sick and/or injured birds, and to fund a study of possible projects to enhance or create migratory bird habitat within the Gila/Salt/Verde River Ecosystem. If the study costs less than $80,000, Morenci must apply the difference up to the total of $80,000 to actually create or enhance such habitats.
“Phelps Dodge deserves recognition for engaging in creative problem solving solutions to better protect migratory birds while performing their business operations,” said Assistant Attorney General Thomas Sansonetti. “We hope that other companies will follow suit and take the initiative to protect the future of migratory game birds and song birds under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act.”
The investigation of this case was led by Special Agents of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, with assistance from biologists with the New Mexico Ecological Services Field Office of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the U.S. Attorney’s Office, District of New Mexico. The case is being prosecuted by the Environmental Crimes Section of the U.S. Department of Justice.