By Steve Raabe
Of THE DENVER POST
DENVER (Denver Post)--Freeport-McMoRan Copper & Gold Inc.'s Climax mine near Leadville, Colo., on Thursday produced its first batch of molybdenum concentrate in 17 years, the Denver Post reported.
The historic mine had closed in 1987 after molybdenum prices crashed, leaving Leadville and Lake County in an economic depression with the loss of 3,200 jobs. Climax later reopened with a reduced work force until closing again in 1995.
Freeport-McMoRan in 2007 announced plans to reopen Climax but put the plans on hold when moly prices again dropped sharply in 2008. In its new incarnation, the mine atop Fremont Pass employs 300 workers.
Molybdenum is used as a hardening agent in steel, as a lubricant and in other industrial products.
Freeport-McMoRan spent $700 million on a new mill and other equipment in preparation for reopening. Mine officials said production is expected to reach 20 million pounds a year by 2013 and could increase to 30 million pounds a year.