Freeport to Proceed with Climax Moly Mine Restart

Freeport-McMoRan Copper & Gold (FCX) plans to proceed with the restart of the Climax molybdenum mine near Leadville, Colorado. The initial $500-million project involves the restart of open-pit mining and the construction of new milling facilities. Annual production is expected to approximate 30 million lb of molybdenum beginning in 2010 at estimated cash costs of $3.50/lb. The project, according to Freeport, is designed to enable the consideration of a further large scale expansion of the Climax mine. FCX will evaluate a second phase of the Climax project which could potentially double future annual molybdenum production to 60 million lb.

According to the company, the Climax mine is believed to be the world’s largest, highest grade and lowest cost undeveloped molybdenum deposit. Using a longterm molybdenum price of $6.50/lb, reserves are estimated at 180 million tons at 0.165% molybdenum (0.5 billion lb of recoverable molybdenum). In addition, there is an estimated 466 million tons of mineralized material grading 0.17% molybdenum ($10/lb long-term molybdenum price) with substantial upside.

Orders for certain long-lead items have been placed and work on the project was slated to begin immediately following the December 4 announcement. Major construction activities are expected to begin in the spring of 2008. The mill is located in Colorado’s Rocky Mountains at an elevation of 11,400 ft. Construction will initially require approximately 150 workers and peak at more than 500, according to the company. The operation will employ approximately 350 when production begins.

Power and automation specialist ABB recently announced that its Process Automation division has contracted to deliver two gearless mill drive (GMD) systems as part of the Climax restart project. One unit, rated at 15,000 hp (11.2 MW), will power a 34 ft (10.36 m) SAG mill. The other unit, rated at 12,000 hp (8.9 MW), will drive a 22 ft (6.7 m) ball mill. The GMD systems include ringmotors, transformers, cyclo converters and a power factor correction and harmonic filter study. The deliveries are scheduled to take place at the end of 2008.

Climax is an historically significant mine with first ore processed in 1918. The mine and mill were last operated in 1995. Reclamation and environmental projects have continued over a multi-year period and will continue in areas no longer required for mining operations.

FCX also announced plans to increase its molybdenum processing capacity by 20 million lb/y through the conversion of its copper concentrate leach facility at Bagdad, Arizona, to a molybdenum concentrate leach facility by 2010. It has four additional molybdenum processing facilities at Green Valley, Arizona; Fort Madison, Iowa; Stowmarket, United Kingdom; and Rotterdam, Netherlands.

As featured in Womp 07 Vol 9 -