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Climax Mine review in Summit

Bob BerwynSummit County CorrespondentVail CO, Colorado
Eric Drummond/Summit Daily NewsThe Climax Mine is seen from above covered in snow in this aerial photo taken May 25. The initial $500 million project includes the restart of open-pit mining and a new milling facility to process the ore. Construction of the milling facility is under way, and production is expected to begin in 2010.
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SUMMIT COUNTY, Colorado The Climax Mine is seen from above covered in snow in this aerial photo taken May 25. The initial $500 million project includes the restart of open-pit mining and a new milling facility to process the ore. Construction of the milling facility is under way, and production is expected to begin in 2010.ENLARGEThe Climax Mine is seen from above covered in snow in this aerial photo taken May 25. The initial $500 million project includes the restart of open-pit mining and a new milling facility to process the ore. Construction of the milling facility is under way, and production is expected to begin in 2010.Summit Daily/Eric DrummondPictured is the Climax Mine. Freeport-McMoRan Copper & Gold Inc., based in Arizona, announced the reopening of the facility two years ago.Pictured is the Climax Mine. Freeport-McMoRan Copper & Gold Inc., based in Arizona, announced the reopening of the facility two years ago.ENLARGEPictured is the Climax Mine. Freeport-McMoRan Copper & Gold Inc., based in Arizona, announced the reopening of the facility two years ago.Summit Daily/Mark FoxPictured are the Climax Mine tailings ponds. State and local officials expect the operators of the molybdenum mine to seek permission soon to expand the tailings ponds in the Ten Mile Creek drainage and build a new water-treatment facility as part of the reopening efforts.Pictured are the Climax Mine tailings ponds. State and local officials expect the operators of the molybdenum mine to seek permission soon to expand the tailings ponds in the Ten Mile Creek drainage and build a new water-treatment facility as part of the reopening efforts.ENLARGEPictured are the Climax Mine tailings ponds. State and local officials expect the operators of the molybdenum mine to seek permission soon to expand the tailings ponds in the Ten Mile Creek drainage and build a new water-treatment facility as part of the reopening efforts.Summit Daily/Mark FoxSUMMIT COUNTY State mining regulators said the reopening of the Climax Molybdenum Mine on Fremont Pass will eventually require a significant expansion of the tailings ponds in the Ten Mile Creek drainage, and a new water-treatment facility at the bottom of the ponds to purify the water before it flows back into the stream.Freeport-McMoRan Copper & Gold Inc., based in Arizona, announced the reopening of the mine two years ago.The initial $500 million project includes the restart of open-pit mining and a new milling facility to process the ore.Construction of the milling facility is under way.Production is expected to begin in 2010.Start-up activities at the mine are covered under the existing state permit. But the Colorado Division of Minerals and Geology expect Freeport to apply for a permit amendment in the near future, said state regulator Allen Sorenson.They can’t do what they want to do with their current permit. The size of the tailings disposal and the open-pit waste rock disposal … are limited by the current permit … they will need to be enlarged significantly, Sorenson said.The state is responsible for regulating the size of those facilities, as well as water-quality issues associated with the mining activities.There are acid-generating minerals in the ore body.They do generate a lot of acid rock drainage, Sorenson said.The current (water-treatment) system is designed around a non-operating mine.The water treatment will have to be enlarged or supplemented.The most significant permit required for the restart of the Climax Mine was the air permit which was received in March 2008, said Jim Telle, external communications director for Freeport-McMoRan Copper & Gold Inc.The tailings impoundments and water discharge permits have been maintained in an active status despite the cessation of mining activities in 1995.The remaining permits required for construction and operation of the Climax Mine are routine and expected to be received in the ordinary course.We do not expect permitting to delay our expected start up of operations in 2010, Telle said.County reviewSummit County will also review some of the activities associates with the reopening of the mine.We’ve had informal conversations with them the past couple of years, said Summit County planning director Jim Curnutte. Any change to their state permit would get a review by the county, he said.The county would also review site plans for new water-treatment and sludge- densification facilities if they are needed, Curnutte said.More generally, the county will use its so-called 1041 powers to review any major changes at the mine as a major industrial water project, Curnutte said, referring to a 1974 state law giving local governments the power to review certain areas of state interest.BackgroundThe Climax mine is believed to be the worlds largest, highest grade and lowest cost undeveloped molybdenum deposit.The mine spreads across more than 14,000 acres in Lake, Summit and Eagle counties.According to a press release from the company, the mine expects to produce about 30 million pounds of molybdenum at a cost of $3.50 per pound.A long-term plan includes doubling production capacity to 60 million pounds annually.High world-wide demand for molybdenum spurred the plan to reopen the mine.Molybdenum has the sixth-highest melting point of any element and is used in steel alloys.In 1879, a large, gray, mineralized outcropping was discovered by Charles J. Senter on the western slope of Bartlett Mountain on Fremont Pass.In 1895, Colorado School of Mines Professor Rudolph George identified the Bartlett Mountain samples as molybdenite (molybdenum disulfide).Finally, in 1916, Max Schott, a miner and businessman, formed Climax Molybdenum Company to recover and process the metal.Construction employment will begin with approximately 150 workers and peak at over 500.The operation will employ approximately 350 when production begins.The mine and mill were last operated in 1995.Bob Berwyn can be reached at (970) 331-5996, or at bberwyn@summitdaily.com.


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