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Freeport-McMoRan receives subpoena in price-fixing probe

Published by MAC on 2003-05-14

Freeport-McMoRan receives subpoena in price-fixing probe

The Ledger Online, by Alan Sayre, AP Business Writer

May 14, 2003

New Orleans - An international mining company based in Louisiana has been ordered to turn over documents as part of an antitrust investigation started by the European Union into allegations of price-fixing in the copper concentrate business.

In a statement issued late Tuesday, New Orleans-based Freeport McMoRan Copper & Gold Inc. said it had received a grand jury subpoena for the documents and expected "to cooperate fully in the investigation."

It was revealed Wednesday that EU antitrust investigators had raided copper mining companies in a price-fixing inquiry coordinated with regulators in the United States and Canada.

Copper concentrate is an intermediate product transformed into finished copper by smelting and refining. European Commission officials said that their investigations were in a preliminary stage and gave no deadline for wrapping up the probe.

Freeport-McMoRan spokesman William Collier said Wednesday that the subpoena was issued by the Justice Department's antitrust division. He said the company could not comment further.

The European Commission did not name the companies involved, but said its inspectors had visited copper concentrate producers Tuesday in Britain and Portugal, while U.S. and Canadian authorities "enforced investigation measures simultaneously."

The commission said it wanted to find out whether there was "evidence of a cartel agreement and related illegal practices concerning the fixing of sales prices" and other aspects of the copper concentrate business.

Freeport-McMoRan, which has one of the world's largest mines in Indonesia, smelts and refines copper concentrates in Spain and Indonesia.

Last year, antitrust regulators from the EU, the United States, Canada and Japan launched their first coordinated raids on 15 companies suspected of rigging prices for plastics.

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