One should always take what is published on Wikipedia with a pinch of salt. Contributions are largely anonymous and content can be biased although no doubt the editors try hard to keep it impartial. So we will take the litany of environmental problems listed on Wiki’s ASARCO entry with reservation but one can’t help reading it and be reminded of the problems China is facing today with lead and heavy metal poisoning around smelters. Many of the instances listed for ASARCO were only 20-30 years ago but sound identical to smelter stories from China. Although ASARCO has primarily been a mining and smelting company it was largely asbestos claims that brought the company down. However the company does hold substantial copper deposits within the US and is still producing some 237 million metric tons of copper a year – a huge asset to a country that is a net importer of copper. Reserves from current mines are estimated at 5 million tons, enough for 21 years at that rate.
So it is good news, not just for the workers at ASARCO but for the country as a whole, that it appears a solution may be close to settle the company’s outstanding claims and return it to being a viable business. India’s Sterlite Industries, part of Vedanta Resources has increased its offer for the company from $2.16 billion to $2.56 billion according to the WSJ, allowing the company to settle all claims and emerge from Chapter 11. The acquisition would make Sterlite the third largest copper producer in the world. But it didn’t go down so well with investors. The company’s shares dropped 3% on the news of the increased bid. The ASARCO management and workers are said to favor the Sterlite bid over rival Grupo Mexico’s proposal, which is understandable. Sterlite has a good reputation for letting their acquisitions get on with it. They will be looking to learn from ASARCO as much as they will to force their own way of doing things. If Sterlite can resolve ASARCO’s Chapter 11 position, the plaintiffs will receive settlement. The company can begin to invest again and an old (if may be not venerable name) in American mining can play its part again in developing domestic metal sources.