Molybdenum

Colorado is the leading producer of molybdenum metal in the U.S.

Climax molybdenum mine at Fremont Pass, the largest primary molybdenum mine in the world. Photo by V. MatthewsThe Henderson Mine in Clear Creek County is the nation’s largest primary molybdenum mine; the mine produced35 million pounds of molybdenum in 2008. The mine lies in the Front Range, just west of Empire. The Climax Mine near Leadville began reopening in 2008, but when the price of molybdenum dropped from more than $30 per pound less than $10 per pound in a few weeks, the reopening was suspended. At least two additional major deposits in Colorado are known; the Lucky Jack depositin Gunnison County and a large deposit at the old mining town of Rico in Dolores County.

Molybdenum is used primarily as an alloy agent in stainless steel, other specialty steels and cast iron. As an alloying agent, molybdenum provides hardness and durability to steel, especially at high temperatures, and imparts corrosion resistance, particularly to salt corrosion. It also increases toughness and weldability of steel. The metal is used in electrodes for glass furnaces, in rocket engine components, liquid metal heat exchangers, in the superstructure of large building, and as a heat-resistant lubricant for machining.

Molybdenum has been shown to break down sulfite toxin accumulations in the body and may prevent dental cavities. Lima beans, liver, milk, peas, spinach and a variety of other dark green leafy vegetables contain molybdenum.

The dominant non-metallurgical use is in catalysts. LCD computer and television screens have a very thin layer of molybdenum on the glass as a base on which transistors and circuit wires are laid. Because molybdenum easily bonds to glass and conducts electricity and heat efficiently, it improves device performance. Molybdenum also plays a role in renewable energy technology, including solar and wind power. For example, a new type of solar panel made ofcopper-indium-gallium-selenide (CIGS)cells uses molybdenum and a thin layer near the bottom of each cell help transfer the electricity generated to circuits external to the panel.

Map showing location of molybdenum mines,deposits, and occurrences in Colorado.