NECR: Phelps-Dodge Norwich CT Plant To Close

Copper Rod Plant to Close, Taking 117 Manufacturing Jobs and ~2000 Carloads Out of the Connecticut Economy.

18 June, Norwich CT – Norwich, CT-based Freeport-McMoRan Copper Products, commonly also referred to by its former ownership, Phelps Dodge, will close its Wawecus Street plant. According to the required notice filed with the CT Department of Labor. The reason for the plant’s closing is a “dramatic downturn in business and economic uncertainty brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Norwich CT

aerial view of Freeport McMoRan Norwich Operations
The copper plant has enough track to handle twice the ~2000 yearly carloads it received prior to the pandemic {Google Earth; annotated by R&P}.

Victim of Covid-19 and deindustrialization

 

copper rods
The Freeport McMoRan ( nee Phelps-Dodge) Norwich plant produces continuous cast copper rod for high voltage electrical applications, including commercial building wiring, telecom, power cable, and magnet wire. About a third of the company’s production is absorbed by General Cable (formerly the wire & cable division of Phelps-Dodge, acquired in 2018 by Italy-based Prysmian Group).

The filed notice continues, “Phelps-Dodge Industries Inc. has carefully reviewed our operations at our Norwich Plant in light of the dramatic downturn in business and economic uncertainty brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic. As part of this process, we have taken a close look at our rod and refining operations to evaluate whether they are economically viable. After much careful consideration, we have made the difficult decision to close the Norwich Plant.”

All of the plant’s 117 employees will be permanently laid off. About 90 employees will be laid off between August 17 and August 30, and soon after, the remaining ~27 will head home from the plant for the last time.

Pre-Covid traffic was 40-50 loaded boxcars per week incoming behind NECR 610 out of Willimantic CT, making the plant NECR’s second largest customer south of Palmer MA. Feedstock was copper ingots from Phelps-Dodge in Arizona, where the ore is mined, smelted, and refined. Only empties are pulled out, with product delivered by truck {ANRP exclusive sources}. That traffic, however, still represented below-capacity operations, and demand has been drastically down since the pandemic outbreak.

Selkirk NY (2006)

Southern Pacific boxcar
Until the 2000s , the Norwich plant took delivery of Arizona copper ingots in distinctive, rib-sided 40-ft Southern Pacific boxcars. These were among the last 40-ft boxcars built in the North American fleet {Harley Keuhl}.