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Moly price stays up, but no word on Climax

Brief by Central Staff

Mining – January 2006 – Colorado Central Magazine

Metal prices are high, which means we will likely hear more talk of mining hereabouts. Much of the talk will focus on molybdenum and the mothballed Climax Mine a dozen miles north of Leadville, which in 1980 employed more than 3,000 people.

Phelps-Dodge, primarily a copper producer, owns the mine now, and has studied re-opening, with a report due sometime soon. The most current news we could find came from Reuters, but we’re not sure how much we can trust it, since it refers to the company’s “shuttered Climax molybdenum mine in Arizona” and “its Henderson Mine in Arizona.”

Somehow we missed the story when two immense mines were moved from Colorado to Arizona.

Anyway, moly prices remain relatively high, at about $33 per pound, although that’s down from $45 last summer.

Much moly these days comes as a by-product of copper, and copper has been fetching a high price: $2.12 a pound in early December, up from $1.41 a year earlier. But Chinese moly supplies have dropped, Reuters said, because of increased internal consumption and mine closures. Demand is expected to remain high in 2006 because of Chinese use in steel production, and because there’s a lot of oil and natural-gas drilling — processes that often use moly-hardened steel.

Gold has been in the news, too, on account of its high price. It was going for $510.20 per troy ounce on Dec. 6, up 13% from $452 a year earlier. Industrial silver was fetching $8.56 an ounce; it was $7.88 at the end of 2004. Colorado politicians in the 1890s often argued that there was a “natural” ratio of 16 to 1 for the price of gold compared to silver, but it’s more like 60 to 1 these days.

As for humbler metals once produced around here, lead is 74¢ a pound, compared to 66.3¢ a year ago, and zinc is 84.3¢, up from 56.4¢ toward the end of 2004.

If prices continue to rise, we’ll doubtless hear more talk of mining in Central Colorado. But if history is any guide, there’s more money to be made by mining investors than by actually hauling rocks out of the earth.