Molybdenum

atomic symbol for molybdenum

China produced the most molybdenum by far in 2021. But which other countries are top molybdenum producers? Find out here.

Molybdenum prices recovered in 2021 on stronger industrial metals demand as global economies recovered. That strength, while tempered by continued sociopolitical uncertainties, has continued in 2022.

Prices for molybdenum are closely related to copper. The metal is often produced as a by-product of copper, meaning that molybdenum output tends to rise and fall depending on how much copper is being produced. Oil prices are also a good indicator of where the molybdenum market is headed.

Worldwide molybdenum production increased by 2,000 metric tons (MT) from 2020 to 2021, rising from 298,000 MT to come in at 300,000 MT. But which countries were the top molybdenum producers last year? Here’s a look at which nations put out the most of the metal in 2021, as per the latest data from the US Geological Survey.


1. China

Mine production: 130,000 MT

China produces the vast majority of the world’s molybdenum supply by a large margin. The country’s molybdenum output rose by 10,000 MT in 2021 to come in at 130,000 MT for the year.

The molybdenum market as a whole is closely tied to China, and not just because the country produces so much of the metal. China also has a massive industrial sector that requires huge amounts of molybdenum to make steel. The Chinese government has recently been tightening up its mining standards in an effort to meet more stringent environmental regulations. As a result, molybdenum facilities have been inspected, forcing firms to either upgrade them to meet these standards or shut down. So far, that hasn’t seemed to hurt China’s production.

2. Chile

Mine production: 51,000 MT

Second in the molybdenum producers lineup is Chile, whose molybdenum production fell in 2021, dropping to 51,000 MT; the country produced 59,400 MT in 2020.

State-owned Codelco produces the bulk of Chile’s molybdenum, and KGHM Polska Miedz (WSE:KGH,OTC Pink:KGHPF) is also a producer in the country. Hot Chili (ASX:HCH,OTC Pink:HHLKF) is working on bringing its Costa Fuego copper project into production in Chile and intends to produce molybdenum as a by-product.

3. United States

Mine production: 48,000 MT

The US decreased its molybdenum production by 3,100 MT in 2021 compared to the previous year.

As mentioned, the metal is often produced as a by-product, and that’s evident when looking at US output. In 2021, molybdenum was produced at nine mines in the country, but was a primary product at just two of them: Freeport-McMoRan (NYSE:FCX) subsidiary Climax Molybdenum's Climax and Henderson mines in Colorado.

According the US Geological Survey, the drop in American molybdenum production was due in large part to a by-product mine in Utah that decreased its output by more than 70 percent. The decline in production in Utah was mostly made up for by a higher amount of the metal coming out of the other US molybdenum producers.

4. Peru

Mine production: 32,000 MT

Coming in fourth on this list of molybdenum producers is Peru. The country has seen rising production in the past few years, moving from 28,000 MT in 2018 and 30,400 MT in 2019 to 32,200 MT in 2020 and 32,000 MT in 2021.

The Peruvian Ministry of Energy and Mines reported that mining investment in the country grew by 21.1 percent in 2021 over the previous year to reach US$5.24 billion. One major molybdenum-producing mine in Peru is Freeport-McMoRan’s Cerro Verde mine, which is primarily a copper producer.

5. Mexico

Mine production: 18,000 MT

Molybdenum production in Mexico has seen peaks and troughs over the last decade, Statista data indicates. However, the country’s molybdenum-mining sector has experienced continual growth since 2015.

One major molybdenum-producing mine in the country is La Caridad, which belongs to privately owned Grupo Mexico. The mine produces molybdenum as a by-product of copper.

6. Armenia

Mine production: 8,200 MT

Armenia’s molybdenum production has climbed significantly over the past few years, up from 6,300 MT in 2019 to 8,200 MT in 2021. CRONIMET Mining subsidiary Zangezur Copper Molybdenum Combine runs Kajaran, the country’s largest copper-molybdenum mine.

7. Mongolia

Mine production: 2,900 MT

Mongolia’s molybdenum production has also been on the rise in the past few years.

Little information on molybdenum in Mongolia is available. One company with molybdenum projects in Mongolia is Erdene Resource Development (TSX:ERD,OTC Pink:ERDCF), which holds the Zuun Mod and Khuyvn Khar molybdenum-copper projects in the country.

8. Russia

Mine production: 2,800 MT

Taking the eighth spot on this molybdenum producers list is Russia. The US Geological Survey provides only an estimate on Russian molybdenum output. For 2021, it suggests that the country put out 2,800 MT of the metal, up 1,000 MT from the previous year. A company called SMR that is part of EN+ Group bills itself as Russia’s only fully integrated molybdenum producer, and the largest ferromolybdenum producer in the country in terms of volume.

It’s worth noting that Russia retains much of its molybdenum for domestic projects. Russian nuclear reactors are specifically designed to use a type of molybdenum only produced within the country.

9. Canada

Mine production: 1,700 MT

Canada’s molybdenum production fell significantly in 2021, coming in at 1,700 MT after the nation posted production of 2,530 MT the previous year.

The BC-based Endako mine, owned by Centerra Gold (TSX:CG,NYSE:CGAU), used to be a key molybdenum producer in the country, but is now on care and maintenance. Another Canadian source of molybdenum is Taseko Mines’ (TSX:TKO,NYSEAMERICAN:TGB) Gibraltar mine.

10. Iran

Mine production: 1,400 MT

Iran is another molybdenum producer whose output levels have remained relatively flat in the recent past, with production coming in at 1,400 MT in 2020 and 2021.

Similar to Mongolia, little information is available on molybdenum in Iran, and that may be because in 2012 the Iranian government banned exports of molybdenum concentrate in an effort to “support national production.” It banned exports of about 50 aluminum, petrochemical and other products at the same time.

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Securities Disclosure: I, Melissa Pistilli, hold no direct investment interest in any company mentioned in this article.

Editorial Disclosure: Hot Chili is a client of the Investing News Network. This article is not paid-for content.

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