After 17-year pause, the mine shipped 21,000 pounds of molybdenum concentrate in early May; grand opening with public tours set for Aug. 8
By Summit Voice
SUMMIT COUNTY — After a 17-year pause, the Climax molybdenum mine is back in business.
The first load of molybdenum concentrate, amounting to approximately 21,000 pounds of molybdenum, was shipped out the gate on May 10, according to a press release from parent company Freeport-McMoRan. At the current market price of about $15 per pound, that would be about $315,000 worth of molybdenum.
The price for molydenum concentrate has varied from less the $5 per pound from 1998 through 2002, up to $35 per pound in 2005, then dropping back down to under $10 per pound in 2009.
The U.S. is the world’s second-leading moly producer, after China. The Henderson Mine, on the border of Summit and Grand counties, is the second-largest moly mine in the world, after the Chuquicamata Mine in Chile.
The Climax Mine, which first started operating in 1916, has a new mill and refurbished equipment and plans to expand operations, depending on market conditions.
The molybdenum from the mine is used for hardening steel (including mountain bike frames) and for lubricants and other industrial purposes.
The mine has produced almost 2 billion pounds of molybdenum since it first opened. It shut down in 1995, resulting in a big economic hit in Leadville. In 2007, the mine announced plans to restart operations, but the economic bust a year later delayed those plans as molybdenum prices crashed on the world market.
Construction restarted in 2010 and production is expected to ramp up to a rate of 20 million pounds per year during 2013 and, depending on market conditions, may be increased to 30 million pounds per year.
Climax currently employs 300 people. Should the production rate increase to 30 million pounds per year, employment could increase to about 400.
Freeport-McMoRan intends to operate its Climax and Henderson molybdenum mines in a flexible manner to meet market requirements.
The Climax mine is holding an Aug. 8 re-opening ceremon, including guided tours of the mine, live Bluegrass music and more. The tours are limited to the first 500 people to sign up. Click here for more info and to RSVP. Buses will depart from Copper Mountain every 15 minutes between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. Tours last about 90 minutes.