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Low molybdenum prices lead to mine lay-offs

Brief by Central Staff

Mining – June 2000 – Colorado Central Magazine

Five years ago, molybdenum prices were so high that the Climax Mine above Leadville re-opened after a 10-year shutdown. It stayed in production for only a couple of months; by the time the mine was running again, the price of moly had begun to fall.

Now prices are so low that the company has laid off employees and curtailed production at its Henderson Mine, which sits near the summit of Berthoud Pass in Clear Creek County.

Citing low prices resulting from a global oversupply of the metallic element — mostly used as an alloy to harden steel — the company said production at Henderson had to be reduced in 2000 to 20 million pounds from the projected 25 million pounds.

That meant laying off 130 of the mine’s approximately 400 workers; their last day on the payroll was May 22. This comes after 110 employees were laid off in January.

Back in 1995, spot molybdenum prices were over $16 a pound, but they soon dropped to under $5, and at press time moly was fetching only $2.65 a pound.

Following several corporate shuffles, Climax Molybdenum is now a wholly owned subsidiary of Phelps-Dodge, an Arizona company which is primarily a copper producer.