Morenci, Arizona, United States
Certified Gold through 2024
Eagle Creek Bat Cave habitat protection / management
Caves & Subterranean
Bat Management & Monitoring (Eagle Creek Cave; Frisco Mine)
Rocky Mountain Bighorn Sheep Management
STEM Education Events - Earth Day
Awareness & Community Engagement
Bat Week & related STEM education around Bats
About the Program
The Freeport-McMoRan, Inc. Morenci Mine is located on over 50,000 acres in Morenci, eastern Arizona of US 191. Morenci Mine is used for metal mining, primarily copper, with a secondary product of molybdenum. The team actively manages 5,206 acres for wildlife habitat and was first certified in 2012.The surrounding natural area consists of desert scrub, chaparral and woodland habitats. The area includes the Eagle Creek bat cave, a 1,560 square foot protected area that is home to an estimated two million Mexican-free-tailed bats.
Practices and Impacts
- A bat gate and educational signage was built in front of the cave in 2010 after years of collaboration and cooperation with Bat Conservation International (BCI), Arizona Game and Fish, Wildlife Habitat Council and the Bureau of Land Management. A forward-looking infrared camera is set up at the base of the gate, pointing upwards such that the field of view includes the ceiling and can record free movement of bats to and from the cave.
- BCI has conducted yearly monitoring of the colony over the summer from June to September using videography and subsequent analysis to estimate the population size for the bat colony. The colony has rebounded to nearly 2 million bats.
- The team has also been working to manage the Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep population since 2006. They are managing bighorn sheep population at levels that provide public wildlife viewing benefits to local communities, while reducing associated vehicle collisions and other conflicts that hinder site operations. The team is working closely with the Arizona Department of Transportation and the Bureau of Land Management. In partnership with the Arizona Fish and Game, GIS analysis is being used to determine movement and distribution patterns. The Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep population at Eagle Creek is also being used as a source for approved statewide translocations to other areas in the state.
- Since 2014, FMMI has worked with teachers in Graham and Greenlee Counties to develop a curriculum that would relate to the Eagle Creek Bat Cave project and touch on other broader topics of bat conservation. Employees collaborate with community partners to plan and implement annual educational events for students K-12 at local schools during Bat Week, reaching over 700 students.
- The team hosts off-site educational activities to directly help members of the community and students understand the breadth of FMMI's environmental stewardship efforts. Examples include an Earth Day tabling event with the San Carlos Apache Tribe and field day events on Eastern Arizona College's Discovery Park Campus, where several hundred students could come together for a targeted outreach event.
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