Asarco LLC said Wednesday it will close its controversial metals-processing plant in Globeville by the end of August, eliciting cries of joy from neighborhood residents.
"We're saying 'hallelujah,"' said Lorraine Granado, a community leader in the north Denver neighborhood. "We're just delighted that they're closing the plant."
Asarco's 89-acre plant - called "Globe," it gave Globeville its name - has a long history of polluting nearby areas with toxic waste. It was declared an Environmental Protection Agency Superfund site in 1993 after regulators determined that the plant had spread lead and arsenic pollution through parts of a 4.5-square-mile area.
Tucson-based Asarco, a subsidiary of industrial conglomerate Grupo Mexico in Mexico City, said in a statement it will transfer portions of the Globe operations to its copper refinery in Amarillo, Texas.
Asarco said it will then attempt to sell the property for "brownfield redevelopment," a process in which a contaminated property is cleaned and developed for a nonpolluting use.
Asarco said it informed the plant's 10 employees Wednesday about the closing. The firm said it will "continue to employ staff necessary to fill all outstanding orders for its customers and to properly close the facility."
Asarco filed for bankruptcy reorganization last year, prompting questions about its ability to pay for cleanup efforts at the Globe plant and other sites, including the California Gulch area near Leadville and the old Omaha- Grant smelter near Interstate 70 and Brighton Boulevard.
Asarco officials could not be reached for comment Wednesday on the cleanup funding. Nationwide, the company owes more than $1 billion to clean up 94 contaminated sites in 21 states and another $500 million to settle some 85,000 asbestos-exposure claims.
The Globe plant started as a smelter in 1886, processing gold, silver, copper and lead from area mines.
The plant subsequently shifted to arsenic trioxide and cadmium production. In recent years, the Globe facility produced high-purity alloys and specialty metals for advanced electronics.
"Closing the plant is the outcome we've worked for for many years," Granado said. "It means people in this neighborhood can be comforted about not being exposed to these toxins."