Climax mine near Leadville to reopen |

Climax mine near Leadville to reopen

Vail Daily Staff ReportAspen, CO Colorado

PHOENIX, Ariz. Freeport-McMoRan Copper & Gold Inc. announced Tuesday it plans to proceed with the restart of the Climax molybdenum mine near Leadville, Colo.Construction employment will begin with approximately 150 workers and peak at more than 500. The operation will employ approximately 350 people when production begins.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 pounds of molybdenum beginning in 2010 at estimated cash costs approximating $3.50 per pound, according to Phoenix-based Freeport.The decision comes as international demand has grown for molybdenum, which is used primarily for strengthening steel.Built at 11,400 feet in the Rockies, the mine opened in April 1918 when steel demands during World War I created a molybdenum boom.Once the world’s largest underground mine, Climax employed about 3,200 people until the price of molybdenum plummeted in the 1980s. It closed in 1987 but reopened in 1995 when molybdenum prices rose for a time. Since 1995, it has been on a maintenance status.Reclamation and environmental projects have continued since the mining ceased and will continue in areas no longer required for mining operations, the company said.Freeport acquired the Climax mine and the Henderson molybdenum mine near Empire, Colo., in March when it bought Phelps Dodge Corp. for $25.9 billion in cash and stock.Plans to reopen the Climax mine leave open the potential for further large-scale expansion of the mine. Freeport will evaluate a second phase of the Climax project, which could potentially double future annual molybdenum production to about 60 million pounds.Work on the project will commence immediately, the company said. Major construction activities are expected to begin in spring 2008, after the winter season.Freeport also announced plans to increase its molybdenum processing capacity by 20 million pounds per annum through the conversion of its copper concentrate leach facility at Bagdad, Ariz., to a molybdenum concentrate leach facility by 2010. The company has four additional molybdenum processing facilities at Green Valley, Ariz.; Fort Madison, Iowa; Stowmarket, United Kingdom and Rotterdam, Netherlands.The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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