Living and Working with ASARCO

Updated: Jan 11


"Skeleton Crew, Graveyard Shift," sculpture by Jerry Parra, Mammoth, Arizona

This page introduces some of the communities we have worked with and learned about: El Paso, Texas; Hayden, Arizona; Ruston, Washington; and Cananea, Mexico. Each of these communities has had a long and mixed relationship with ASARCO or with ASARCO's current owner, Grupo Mexico. We also include a video portrait of Northport, Washington, a community which is fighting for redress from the effects of toxic contamination by Teck Cominco, a Canadian smelter.


In many communities, ASARCO's jobs sustained workers and their families for generations. ASARCO's workers and their families understood the central place that copper holds in modern industry, and they valued their role in producing it. At the same time the workers, their families and their neighbors struggled with the impacts of working and living in close proximity with a polluting and dangerous industry. In Hayden, Arizona, community members told us about unstable tailing (mine waste) piles the size of small mountains where cattle tried to graze, and died. Near Cananea, Grupo Mexico's dam collapsed, releasing thousands of tons of tailings contaminants into the Sonora River. The Mexican government described this as "the worst environmental disaster in the history of the mining industry" in Mexico. In Hayden, people showed us polluted land and rivers where they used to fish and raise vegetables.


Every community has raised disturbing questions about the impact of toxic emissions on their health. In Northport, citizen researchers have documented an unusual number of people with Crohn's disease which they believe to be the result of the emissions dumped into the Columbia River by Teck Cominco. In Ruston, union workers reacted to disclosures of high arsenic levels in school children by focusing their attention on health and safety issues and publicizing them in a newsletter . In El Paso, Tworkers, public health advocates and environmental activists banded together, seeking to prevent ASARCO from reopening a temporarily shuttered plant,, and former ASARCO workers have asked for medical screenings and monitoring of conditions they fear were caused by working at ASARCO.


In Hayden and Ruston, community members told us of laundry hung on the line to dry that was immediately ruined by falling ash, and cars whose paint was pitted and marred by the acid rains created by ASARCO's emissions.


There are hundreds of communities in the U.S. and internationally that struggle with the ongoing impacts of their relationships with ASARCO, Grupo Mexico and other mining corporations. Here we present just a few that we have gotten to know well. Please follow the links below to start learning how the communities we've visited, filmed and written about have grappled with the complex dilemmas posed by living and working with ASARCO.


Ruston's Early History

ASARCO in El Paso

Hayden, Arizona: The Copper Collar

Northport, Washington: Researching Illness on the Upper Columbia River

Cananea's Buenavista Mine

Community Voices: A Very Clear "No"