China produced the most molybdenum by far in 2017. But which other countries were top molybdenum producers? Find out here.
Prices for molybdenum are closely related to copper. The industrial 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. With copper prices on the decline it’s possible that production of both metals could be headed for a slowdown.
Last year, however, worldwide molybdenum production increased. The latest data from the US Geological Survey shows that output of the metal reached 290,000 MT, up from the 279,000 MT produced in 2016. 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 2017.
Mine production: 130,000 MT
Of all the molybdenum producers, China produces the vast majority of the world’s supply by a large margin. The country’s molybdenum output remained the same from 2016 to 2017, at 130,000 MT.
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.
Mine production: 58,000 MT
Second in the molybdenum producers lineup is Chile, whose molybdenum production rose slightly in 2017, hitting 58,000 MT; the country produced 55,600 MT in 2016.
State-owned Codelco produces the bulk of Chile’s molybdenum, and KGHM Polska Miedz (WSE:KGH) is also a producer in the country. Australia’s Hot Chili (ASX:HCH) is working on bringing its Productora copper project into production in Chile, and intends to produce molybdenum as a by-product.
3. United States
Mine production: 44,600 MT
The US bumped up its molybdenum production by roughly 24 percent in 2017 compared to the previous year. The US Geological Survey values this production at around US$800 million.
As mentioned, the metal is often produced as a by-product of copper and other metals, and that’s evident when looking at US output stats: in 2017, molybdenum was produced at seven mines in the country, but was a primary product at just two of them. One of those was Freeport-McMoRan’s (NYSE:FCX) Climax mine in Colorado. Production was suspended at various other US-based molybdenum mines during the price downturn, but last year the country’s exports increased 37 percent, while consumption jumped 26 percent.
Mine production: 26,000 MT
Coming in fourth on our list of molybdenum producers is Peru, which also saw a slight uptick in molybdenum production in 2017, reporting output of 26,000 MT in comparison to 25,800 MT in 2016.
In April 2018, the Peruvian Ministry of Energy and Mines declared that it expects the country to receive $20.8 billion in mining investment over the next two years. More good news came in June, when Chinese-owned Aluminum Corporation of China (SHA:601600) announced plans to invest US$1.3 billion in its Toromocho copper mine. That’s good news in disguise for molybdenum which, as noted, is often produced as a by-product of copper and other metals. One major molybdenum-producing mine in Peru is Freeport-McMoRan’s Cerro Verde mine, which is primarily a copper producer.
Mine production: 12,000 MT
Molybdenum production in Mexico increased slightly by 100 MT last year to reach 12,000 MT. That said, on the whole the country’s output has been on the rise since the late 1990s, as per MBendi Information Services. 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.
Mine production: 6,300 MT
Armenia’s molybdenum production remained the same in 2017, staying at 6,300 MT. CRONIMET Mining subsidiary Zangezur Copper Molybdenum Combine runs Kajaran, the country’s largest copper-molybdenum mine. The mine has been in operation since 1951, and has 2.2 billion tons of ore resources.
Mine production: 3,500 MT
Iran’s 2017 molybdenum production came in at 3,500 MT, the same as in 2016. 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.
Since then, Iran has made molybdenum headlines for the discovery of a new molybdenum deposit in East Azerbaijan. The find is estimated to contain reserves of 21.7 million MT. According to Mehr News, Iran’s molybdenum exports have been on the rise.
Mine production: 3,000 MT
Canada’s molybdenum production clocked in at 3,000 MT in 2017, up from 2,710 MT the previous year. The BC-based Endako mine, owned by Centerra Gold (TSX:CG), used to be a key molybdenum producer in the country, but is now on care and maintenance. The company has said it will re-evaluate the status of the mine “as market conditions warrant.”
Other Canadian sources of molybdenum include Taseko Mines’ (TSX:TKO,NYSEAMERICAN:TGB) Gibraltar mine, also located in BC. Meanwhile, Amarc Resources (TSXV:AHR,OTCBB:AXREF) is looking to advance the IKE porphyry copper-molybdenum-silver porphyry with Hudbay Minerals (TSX:HBM,NYSE:HBM), and announced the start of a drilling program in mid-2018.
Mine production: 3,000 MT
Technically tying with Canada for eighth place on our molybdenum producers list is Russia. The US Geological Survey provides only an estimate on Russian molybdenum output. For 2017, it suggests that the country put out 3,000 MT of the metal, a slight decrease from previous years. 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. A report from Emerging Markets notes that Russian nuclear reactors are specifically designed to use a type of molybdenum only produced within the country.
Mine production: 2,400 MT
Finally, Mongolia’s molybdenum production remained roughly stagnant in 2017.
Similar to Iran, little information on molybdenum in Mongolia is available. One company with a molybdenum project in the country is Erdene Resource Development (TSX:ERD), which holds the Zuun Mod molybdenum-copper project in the country; it has a measured and indicated resource of 218 million tonnes at 0.057 percent molybdenum and 0.069 percent copper.
Which of the molybdenum producers do you think will produce the most in 2018?
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Securities Disclosure: I, Amanda Kay, hold no direct investment interest in any company mentioned in this article.