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Homeland Security Buys Town,
Playas, N.M., for Training

REUTERS 23may03

Homeland Security buys Playas NM (map) 23may03

SANTA FE, NM—The U.S. Department of Homeland Security has bought for about $5 million the small New Mexico ghost town of Playas, and plans to transform it into a terrorist response training center, officials said on Friday. Training at the 1,840-acre town about 40 miles north of the Mexican border, could provide training for U.S. Marines in urban warfare and a first responders program that includes testing responses to various terrorist bombing possibilities, they said.

The facility could also be used to look at ways in which biological and chemical warfare may affect a small town, said an official responsible for running the training center.

New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology, an undergraduate and graduate school specializing in science and engineering, will run the training center, which was purchased for "close to $5 million dollars" from Phelps Dodge, said Lonnie Marquez, acting vice-president of administration and finance at New Mexico Tech.

"We've been pursuing this since the town was first made available so we're pretty excited," he said. "Our programs will be in support of Homeland Security."

Playas was built in the early 1970s to house the employees and infrastructure of the Phelps Dodge copper smelter, which shut down in 1999 leaving a virtual ghost town. About 40 families still live in the town, but may have to move once the federal government finalizes the purchase, Marquez said.

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