A Members of the Culberson County Road and Bridge Department who lost their jobs on October 1 due to a tax dispute Robert Bryce the Travis Central Appraisal District, claiming the district had put too high a value on several hundred acres of Freeport’s land in the western part of the county. Freeport won its lawsuit in Travis County District Court, and in, June the Third Circuit Court of Appeals in Austin, in a two-to-one vote with Justice John Powers dissenting, upheld the lower-court ruling. The appraisal district plans to appeal the decision to the Texas Supreme Court, with arguments expected some time this fall. Until early 1995, the Culberson County mine was owned by Pennzoil, which sold the operation to Freeport-McMoRan and its subsidiary, Freeport-McMoRan Resources Partners. In a document filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission after the sale, Freeport and Pennzoil valued the assets in the salewhich include a shipping terminal near Galvestonat $50.27 million. In 1995, the Culberson appraisal district valued the mine at $38.4 million. In 1996, the appraisalwhich depends, in part, on the price of sulfurrose to $51.3 million. Freeport sued the appraisal district in August 1995, and again in August 1996, contending that the valuations for the two years were too high. Because it was contesting the valuations, Freeport was allowed to withhold a total of $727,638 from the school district, county government, and hospital. The tax dollars withheld are equivalent to about one day’s profit for the two Freeport companies. Sally Carrasco, the chief appraiser at the Culberson County Appraisal District, said Pennzoil, which owned the mine for more than a decade, was a good corporate citizen and always paid its property taxes on time. “We never had any problem with them. They always paid their taxes on time. One year they paid them early, in October, to help us out,” says Carrasco. A public tax fight with a poor rural county is not the first negative publicity Freeport has generated. The company’s huge Grasberg Mine in Indonesiawhich contains the largest gold deposit on earth continues to be embroiled in controversy. In August, four tribesman living near the mine, were killed, apparently by the Indonesian military, which gets food, shelter, and transportation from Freeport. Two years ago, the company’s lack of environmental protections at the mine led the federal Overseas Private Investment Corporation to cancel Freeport’s political risk insurance. The cancellation sent shock waves through the international mining community and confirmed the suspicions of international environmental groups that for years have complained that Freeport was cutting corners at the mine. Here in Texas, Freeport has been in the OCTOBER 24, 1997 THE TEXAS OBSERVER 19 A 1 r/ OM 41111″11111.118.104.22.16822.214.171.124″…”1100,..
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