© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: The logo of copper miner Freeport-McMoRan Inc is displayed at their office in Phoenix, Arizona, U.S. June 30, 2022. REUTERS/Ernest Scheyder
(Reuters) -Freeport-McMoRan Inc warned on Wednesday that the struggle to find workers in the United States is limiting how much companies can produce for the green energy transition.
The worker shortage reflects the talent crisis facing the broader mining industry, as well as broader macroeconomic trends of worker hopping in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.
Freeport, which operates seven mines in the United States, including North America’s largest, has 1,300 job openings in the country, representing more than 10% of the US workforce. The company’s U.S. copper production fell 7% last quarter compared with the same period in 2021. In 2023, the company expects U.S. copper production to fall nearly 1% from 2022 levels.
President Kathleen Quirk told investors on Wednesday after the company posted better-than-expected quarterly results: “We can produce more (copper) in 2022 if we have the full staff on board.” pellets. And I believe that will happen again this year.”
Executives note that they do not see similar trends in South America or Indonesia, where Freeport also operates large mines.
“Our job is hard work. And driving a big truck (at the copper mine) is harder than driving an Amazon truck (NASDAQ:) or UPS or FedEx (NYSE:), who called the worker shortage a “strategic challenge” for the Phoenix-based company.
Freeport plans to give “significant” pay increases to US employees this year, Adkerson said. The company is working to train replacement workers, but added that the employee’s level of experience in the United States is not what it was five years ago.
“I think that has some impact on our ability to develop mines in the US,” said Quirk. More than half of Freeport’s estimated 235 billion pounds of copper resources are in the United States, and Adkerson has called the country key to Freeport’s growth plans.
Freeport on Wednesday posted fourth-quarter net income of $697 million, or 48 cents per share, compared with $1.1 billion, or 74 cents per share, for the year-ago period. . Excluding one-time items, Freeport posted quarterly profit of 52 cents per share, far exceeding analyst estimates of 46 cents per share, according to Refinitiv data.
Freeport reported an average strike copper price of $3.77 per pound for the quarter, compared with $4.42 a year earlier. The company expects annual capital expenditures of around $5.2 billion, well above the $3.5 billion mark in 2022.
Despite recent macroeconomic concerns, particularly in China, Freeport said it does not see demand for the red metal slowing down. “If we can produce more, our customers will want it,” said Quirk.