There's no doubt about it, 2015 was a tough year for Freeport-McMoRan (FCX -1.55%). That's pretty clear when looking at its stock price, which is down 67% year to date. That poor performance led to some pretty bad headlines this year. All that being said, while 2015 was clearly a tough year, not every headline was bad; the company did have a few notable accomplishments worth pointing out. Here's a look back at some of its best headlines over the past year.
1. "Freeport-McMoRan Reports Successful Production Test on Highlander Well" -- World Oil
Back in February, Freeport-McMoRan announced that its Highlander discovery, located onshore in South Louisiana in the Inboard Lower Tertiary/Cretaceous trend, was a success. The well delivered an initial production rate of 75 MMcf/d of natural gas. That test confirmed that the reservoir was very good and that the company had the potential for additional discoveries on its acreage position in the region. Best of all, Freeport-McMoRan could finally turn this prospect into cash flow, which is something it really needs right now.
2. "Icahn Becomes Top Freeport-McMoRan Shareholder" -- CNBC
In late August it was revealed that well-known activist investor Carl Icahn became Freeport-McMoRan's largest shareholder after buying 88 million shares in the company. It was a move that sent its stock spiking because it was believed that Icahn would shake things up at the mining company. By October he had secured two seats on the company's board and had convinced the company to review its strategic options for its oil and gas subsidiary, including the potential of a full exit of the business.
3. "Freeport-McMoRan Finds More Oil in Deepwater Gulf of Mexico" -- World Oil
In September the company announced another drilling success, this time in the deepwater Gulf of Mexico. The company's Horn Mountain Deep well encountered an excellent oil reservoir, which the company plans to tie back to its existing production facilities by 2017. Freeport-McMoRan expects that this discovery, along with a couple of other wells it plans to drill, will produce 30,000 barrels of oil equivalent per day when it's fully developed. The best part of this discovery is its close proximity to existing infrastructure, which will enable it to deliver high returns even with low oil prices.
4. "Indonesia Assures Freeport that Grasberg Mine Contract to be Extended" -- Reuters
While Freeport-McMoRan owns mining and energy assets around the world, its crown jewel is the Grasberg mine in Indonesia. Its current mining contract for the copper and gold mine runs through 2021, but it received assurances from the government of Indonesia that the contract would be extended beyond that date. Among the terms being worked out are revisions to mining regulations and economic stimulus measures.
The extension beyond 2021 is key for Freeport-McMoRan for a number of reasons. Not only is the company investing upwards of $18 billion into the country as part of its contract, but the company has a key joint venture with Rio Tinto (RIO -1.50%) that flips that year. Currently, Rio Tinto receives 40% of production from that mine above a certain level until 2021. However, after 2021 it receives 40% of all production from that mine. Needless to say, Freeport-McMoRan needs to ensure that the terms it is working under post 2021 are still favorable given how much of the production will revert to Rio Tinto starting that year.
Despite a very tough commodity price environment, 2015 wasn't a complete wash for Freeport-McMoRan. The company was able to announce some important discoveries, it is now working with a key turnaround investor, and it has been assured that its most significant mine will remain under its control for years to come. These accomplishments are key to the company's future success.