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Molybdenum Mining On The Continental Divide

By Michael Montgomery—Exclusive to Moly Investing News

The Continental Divide, North America.  A boundary along the Rocky Mountains that separates river systems into the two great oceans is also the home to the most important molybdenum producing regions in the entire world. Early settlers of the region came for the vast deposits of gold and silver, but found many more deposits than just precious metals. The Climax Molybdenum mine was at one point the main producer of molybdenum in the world, responsible for three fourths of world supply.

For the purposes of examining the potential for molybdenum in the region one must  look on the outskirts of the Rockies, into the surrounding areas that also produce massive copper-molybdenum deposits, such as the Bingham Canyon Mine in Utah, as well as some sizeable deposits in Nevada. The Continental Divide region is arguably the world's most important moly producing deposits. At full production, these deposits could have a serious impact on world molybdenum supply.

Henderson & Climax Mines

Both of these mines are owned by Freeport-McMoRan Copper & Gold (NYSE:FCX) and are run through their subsidiary, Climax Molybdenum Company. The Henderson Mine has produced 770 million pounds of molybdenum since it opened in 1976. The Climax mine, before shutting down due to low molybdenum prices, once supplied three-fourths of the world's supply of moly. The mine is capable of putting 30 million pounds of molybdenum into the market and because mining was conducted at the site for years, the start-up should be relatively easy. There are reports that the mine is coming back online in the near future; the CEO has stated that the company would make the decision to start production this year. The company has also posted job openings for the site, a sign that they may be going into production soon. The main factor that could keep full production from starting is the reported surplus of moly currently on the market that could keep moly prices at bay in 2011.

Bingham Canyon

Bingham Canyon is the most important copper-moly mine in the US, if not the world. Located just outside Salt Lake City, Utah, it is owned by the Rio Tinto Group (LON:RIO) and has produced more copper than any mine in the world over its lifetime. As far as molybdenum, in 2009 the mine produced 24.9 million pounds. The operations on site recently developed a Molybdenum Autoclave Processor (MAP) that, according to the company, can process lower grade moly ore with higher efficiency in both energy usage with less environmental impact.

CUMO Mine

The CUMO project in Idaho is run by Mosquito Consolidated Gold Mines (CVE:MSQ). The deposit is one of the largest moly resources in the world. According to the company, the resource base has an indicated and inferred molybdenum oxide resource of 4.1 billion pounds, as well as massive amounts of copper, silver and tungsten. The company has yet to set a date on production.

Mt. Hope & Liberty Project

The Mt. Hope and Liberty projects in Nevada is 80 percent owned by General Moly (AMEX:GMO)(TSE:GMO) and the remaining 20 percent is owned by POSCO, a South Korean steel company. This world class deposit, according to the company, has a proven and probable resource of 1.3 billion pounds of moly. The company received a lot of attention last year because of the $665 million loan from Hanlong Group in China. The Liberty Project is capable of producing 503 million pounds of molybdenum over a 33-year mine life.

Thompson Creek Mine

Operated by Thompson Creek Metals (NYSE:TC)(TSE:TCM) the mine is located in Idaho, and has a measured and indicated mineral resource of 54.3 million pounds of contained moly. The mine began operations in 1983, and averages a daily ore output of 28,000 tons per day. The company also runs the Endako Mine in British Columbia, Canada that boasts a measured and indicated base of 60.9 million pounds of contained moly.

The company is looking to develop their Mt. Emmons deposit near Crested Butte, Colorado. The deposit has a historical mineral resource in excess of 700 million pounds of molybdenum. The project is facing stiff opposition from the local community of Crested Butte, a skiing town that is opposed to the large scale mining.

The Continental Divide region is one of the most prolific molybdenum regions in the world and at full production, could meet 100 percent of global moly demand. The planned production in the region could have an effect on world prices if the market is flooded with the massive amounts of molybdenum. Of course, some projects in the region have been omitted. Thompson Creek Metals alone has three other properties in British Columbia alone, the Questa mine in Northern New Mexico is among the some of the projects not covered. The region has multiple world class moly deposits, and any project should be taken seriously considering the large scale deposits in the Rocky Mountain chain.

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