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Where Does Molybdenum Come From?

Molybdenum is found all over the world but only a few deposits warrant the extensive mining, milling and processing facilities necessary for its economic recovery. The main sources today are the United States, Chile and China as well as Canada, Peru and CIS.

Molybdenum is obtained from two different types of mines: primary mines and by-product mines. At primary mines its recovery is the prime target of the mining operation. Climax Molybdenum Company, a subsidiary of Freeport-McMoRan, has two primary mines in Colorado, with the Henderson mine currently operating half a mile under the Continental Divide. More than 2,000 pounds of ore must be mined underground, crushed and milled to recover some four to six pounds of molybdenum. The Climax Mine is located approximately 13 miles northeast of Leadville, Colorado and is a porphyry molybdenum deposit with molybdenite as the primary sulfide mineral.

The other major source of molybdenum is by-product from copper mines in the western part of the United States, Canada, Chile, Mexico and Peru. We own and operate the Sierrita and Bagdad copper mines in Arizona. At both locations, the recovery of copper is the prime target; however, substantial quantities of molybdenum are also recovered.

The molybdenum-containing mineral (molybdenite) is obtained from the ore at the mines by a series of crushing, grinding and flotation operations, which produce a concentrate consisting primarily of the molybdenite mineral.