Thursday, September 23, 2010

Why would Freeport support the Arizona Centennial Museum?

One of the big mysteries of the Arizona Historical Society attack on the Arizona Mining and Mineral Museum is the participation of Freeport McMoran Copper and Gold Inc. Freeport purchased Phelps Dodge a few years back. In addition to acquiring huge copper mines in Arizona, they inherited over a century of Arizona mining history and tradition. Much of that is currently on display in the Arizona Mining and Mineral Museum.

The mineral museum was in the process of building the Copper Gallery. Displays planned for the new gallery would have included:

Formation of copper deposits

Copper exploration techniques

Maps of Arizona copper deposits

History of copper mining in Arizona

Mining and processing of different ores

Uses for copper in daily life

Beauty and diversity of copper minerals

Applications of copper in art

Part of the new gallery was already completed when the Governor changed the law to transfer the building and museum to the Arizona Historical Society. They have been directed to convert it to the 5C Arizona Centennial Museum featuring cattle, citrus, cotton, copper, and climate.

As mineral museum supporters spoke out against the bill at the Senate hearing, it became very apparent that Freeport’s lobbyist was actively supporting the bill. There were also stories about Freeport having committed one million dollars to the 5C Centennial Museum. Those stories continue to be circulated by the Arizona Historical Society and also appear on other blogs, but have not yet been confirmed. The Arizona Centennial foundation, which would be the recipient of the money, has not made a formal announcement. Inquiries sent to Freeport have not been answered.

Many wonder why Freeport would do that. On the surface, it does not appear to be in their best interest. The existing mineral museum features their products, technologies, and history for more completely that the 5C Arizona Centennial Museum ever would. According to preliminary plans, mining and mineral display would be reduced to much less that 20% of the existing floor space. As discussed in the June 12 post on this blog, that remaining space would be focused on social issues related to mining rather than on technology.

Freeport does generously support earth science museum and education. They gave a million dollar grant to the University of Arizona mineral museum, and just this month (as reported in the September 17 issue of the Arizona Republic) they gave a half million dollar to promote science education in Arizona. They were the biggest supporter of the Friends of the Arizona Mining and Mineral Museum, and even provided a generous grant while the law was being changed to eliminate the mineral museum.

Therefore, Freeport support for the 5C Arizona Centennial Museum, which will obliterate the mineral museum, is most puzzling. Are there two Freeports?

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