El Chino Mine
The Chino Mine also known as the Santa Rita mine, is an open-pit copper mine located in the town of Santa Rita, New Mexico
Santa Rita, New Mexico
Santa Rita is a ghost town in Grant County in the U.S. state of New Mexico. The site of El Chino copper mine, Santa Rita was located fifteen miles east of Silver City.-History:...

 15 miles (24.1 km) east of Silver City
Silver City, New Mexico
Silver City is a town in Grant County, New Mexico, in the United States. As of the 2000 census, the town population was 10,545. It is the county seat of Grant County. The city is the home of Western New Mexico University.-History:...

. The mine was started as the Chino Copper Company in 1909 by mining engineer John M. Sully, and is currently owned and operated by Freeport-McMoRan Copper & Gold
Freeport-McMoRan Copper & Gold Inc., often called simply Freeport, is the world's lowest-cost copper producer and one of the world's largest producers of gold...

 subsidiaries. The area where the mine is located is at an average elevation of 5699 feet (1,737.1 m).
The huge open-pit mine was once the largest in the world, but has been surpassed by Chuquicamata, and is perhaps the oldest mining site still being used in the American southwest. Apaches, Spaniards, Mexicans, and Americans have all obtained native copper and copper ore from this site, once known as the Santa Rita mine, and in the 19th century, a tunnel mine. The present-day open-pit mining operation was begun in 1910. It is the third oldest open pit copper mine in the world after the Bingham Canyon Mine
Bingham Canyon Mine
The Bingham Canyon Mine, also known as the Kennecott Copper Mine, is an open-pit mining operation extracting a large porphyry copper deposit southwest of Salt Lake City, Utah, USA, in the Oquirrh Mountains. It is the deepest open-pit mine in the world. The mine is owned by Rio Tinto Group, an...

 and Chuquicamata.

A mill to process the low-grade copper ore was established in 1911 in nearby Hurley
Hurley, New Mexico
Hurley is a town in Grant County, New Mexico, United States. The population was 1,464 at the 2000 census.-Geography:Hurley is located at .According to the United States Census Bureau, the town has a total area of , all of it land....

 but was replaced by a new (current) Ivanhoe concentrator facility in 1982. Milling operations recently (January 2004) restarted at the Chino Concentrator after a three-year hiatus caused by low copper prices. SX/EW operations started in 1988 and have run continuously since. Reserves of copper ore at Chino are expected to last until 2015.

A smelter in Hurley was commissioned in 1939 and was modernized in 1985 to increase capacity and achieve compliance with the Clean Air Act. In 2005, the smelter was permanently closed.

December 3, 2008, Chino's parent company, Freeport-McMoRan, announced it plans to suspend mining and milling activities at Chino, but will continue reclamation activities and copper production from its SX-EW plant. About 600 people from the current work force of 830 will be laid off beginning about Feb. 13, 2009.

Freeport-McMoRan announced in October 2010 that they would be restarting operations at the mine ramping production up to a planned mining and milling rate by 2013. They are also planning $150 million in refurbishments and new equipment.

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