Melissa (Mel) Sanderson joined Freeport McMoRan in 2006 as Vice President for Africa, the number-two ranking company official for Freeport’s Tenke Fungarume Mine in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), a greenfields project in a copper-rich southeastern province. In the DRC she was responsible for overseeing government, community and public relations affairs. After successfully ensuring the stable operations and production of the mine, she came to the company’s Phoenix headquarters where she continued her involvement with the DRC while at the same time expanding her portfolio to encompass strategic planning and coordination for corporate social, governmental and PR activities globally. With the sale of the TFM mine to China Molybdenum Corp in 2016 and Freeport’s withdrawal from Africa, she assumed the title of Director for International Affairs, maintaining the same substantive responsibilities.
Before joining Freeport, Mel enjoyed an unusually diverse 21-year career with the U.S. Department of State diplomatic service including, inter alia, international arms control, anti-narcotics and anti-terrorism and business promotion (helping U.S. companies abroad). In fact, in her first assignment in Mexico, she was involved in attracting U.S. businesses to the then-fledgling maquiladora industry, and subsequently worked briefly with the U.S. team negotiating the North American Free Trade Agreement.
Mel is the recipient of several honors and awards in Phoenix, including the Athena Award (premier private sector female) by the Phoenix Chamber of Commerce in 2015; the 25 Outstanding Women in Business by the Phoenix Business Journal in 2014, and Global Businessperson of the Year in 2017.
She is Chair of the Arizona District Export Council and the Mining Committee of the Arizona-Mexico Commission; co-Chair of the Phoenix Committee on Foreign Relations, and is on several Boards, including the AMC and PCFR Boards. She also is a member of the International Leadership Council of the Greater Phoenix Economic Council and an Advisor to the Africa Business Portal and the Global Chamber.