Molybdenum

This information has not been updated since 2013 and is provided for general reference purposes. For the latest data, please see Australia's Identified Mineral Resources 2016.

Molybdenum (Mo) is used mostly in steels and superalloys to enhance strength, toughness, thermal and corrosion resistance, and to reduce brittleness. Applications include high speed steels, stainless steels (especially to increase corrosion resistance), high temperature steels and in cast iron. It is used also in nickel, titanium and molybdenum base alloys for applications requiring high strength and stability at high temperatures such as heating elements, radiation shields, glass melting equipment and in jet and rocket engines. Other uses include as catalysts, lubricants and pigments, as well as applications in the electronics industry and as trace nutrients in fertilisers. The main commercial source of molybdenum is the mineral molybdenite (MoS2) but it is found also in minerals such as wulfenite (PbMoO4) and powellite (CaMoO4). Molybdenum is mined as a principal ore but is more commonly recovered as a by-product or co-product from copper and tungsten mining.

Resources

Australia's Economic Demonstrated Resources (EDR) of molybdenum increased from 167 kilotonnes (kt) in 2011 to 203 kt in 2012. This increase results from a large increase in resources at Dart Mining's Unicorn deposit in Victoria. Resource figures for Australia's EDR do not include 220 kt of reserves at the Spinifex Ridge Molybdenum-Copper Project deposit in Western Australia (WA) which the owner, Moly Mines Limited, indicates is currently uneconomic and, as a consequence, has been reclassified as Paramarginal. Spinifex Ridge is Australia's largest molybdenum deposit. The majority of Australia's EDR is in Queensland (Qld) with 70.5%, followed by Victoria (Vic) with about 25%. If the Spinifex Ridge resources are included in the EDR, the overall resources would be 52% in WA, followed by Qld (34%) and Vic (12%).

Australia's Subeconomic Demonstrated Resources (SDR) accounted for about 86% of the total Demonstrated Resources, with 75% of SDR in Qld and the remainder in WA. In 2012, Paramarginal Resources and Submarginal Resources stood at 1220 kt and 0.5 kt respectively, which is unchanged from 2011.

Inferred Resources of molybdenum increased only slightly from 562 kt in 2011 to 572 kt in 2012. Queensland and WA account for 66% and 28% of Inferred Resources respectively.

Accessible EDR

All of Australia's known EDR of molybdenum is accessible.

JORC Reserves

Joint Ore Reserve Committee (JORC) Code reserves comprise total molybdenum in Proved and Probable Ore Reserves as defined in the JORC Code. In 2012, JORC Code reserves of 79.5 kt accounted for approximately 39% of Accessible Economic Demonstrated Resources (AEDR). Nearly all these reserves (about 77.4 kt) are from Inova Resources Merlin Project in northwest Qld. The 2012 figures do not include 220 kt of reserves from the Spinifex Ridge Molybdenum-Copper Project deposit in WA, which, as reported by Moly Mines Ltd, are uneconomic at the current molybdenum prices.

Exploration

Data on exploration expenditure for molybdenum are not available nationally.

Production

There was no recorded molybdenum production in Australia in 2012.

World Ranking

According to United States Geological Survey (USGS) data, updated by Geoscience Australia for Australia's resources, world economic resources of molybdenum in 2012 are estimated to be about 11 200 kt with China holding about 38% of the resources followed by the USA with 24% and Chile with 21%. Australia accounts for around 1.8% of the world's economic resources of molybdenum.

The USGS estimates that world molybdenum production in 2012 amounted to 252 kt, slightly lower than its revised 2011 figures of 264 kt. China, the USA, Chile and Peru accounted for about 87% of global outputs in 2012 with China producing 105 kt, followed by the USA with 57 kt, Chile with 35 kt and Peru with 19.5 kt.

Industry Developments

World molybdenum prices soared in 2007, reaching a high of US$38 per pound (lb) in September 2008 from a low of about US$5/lb in 2001. After the global financial crises in October 2008, the average price declined sharply to US$8/lb and continued at that level through the first half of 2009. This led to a tightening of global supplies as many companies ceased operation. However, increased demand from China, Japan and Korea resulted in prices increasing, with the average price for the second half of 2009 to mid-2011, fluctuating from US$14 to US$18/lb. Prices have steadily declined since mid-2011 to around US$10/lb in June 2013.

Inova Resources Limited's (Inova, previously Ivanhoe Australia Ltd) Merlin molybdenum-rhenium (Re) deposit, approximately 100 kilometres (km) south of Cloncurry in northwest Qld has progressed through scoping, pre-feasibility and feasibility studies. Completed in April 2012, the feasibility study included a mine life of 15 years with a throughput rate of 500 kt a year (processing plant located at the nearby Osborne Mine) and average production of 5100 tonnes of molybdenum and 7300 kilograms of rhenium a year for the first seven years. The feasibility study was based on an April 2012 upgrade of Probable Reserves to 7.1 million tonnes (Mt) at 1.1% Mo and 18.1 grams per tonne (g/t) Re for a contained 78 kt Mo and 129 tonnes Re. Indicated Resources are 6.7 Mt at 1.39% Mo and 23.4 g/t Re with contained 93 kt Mo and 157 tonnes of Re. Probable Reserves are included in the Indicated Resources. Inova commenced a value engineering program in August 2012 reviewing the outcomes of the feasibility study with the aim of reducing risk and enhancing economics. Initial results suggested the potential for a 10% increase in production rates. The Merlin deposit consists of high-grade molybdenite mineralisation within the faulted basal metasediments of the Kuridala Formation in the Mount Isa eastern succession. The molybdenum mineralisation is overlain by discrete copper and zinc-rich polymetallic sulphide zones of the Mount Dore ore body. The Merlin deposit is the world¿s highest grade molybdenum and rhenium deposit with very high-grade molybdenum mineralisation close to the surface at its southern end in the Little Wizard deposit. The company reported an Indicated Resource for Little Wizard of 15 000 tonnes grading 6.49% Mo, 83.9 parts-per-million (ppm) Re, 2.3% copper (Cu) and 25 g/t silver (Ag). The Little Wizard resource is included in the Merlin Reserve figures. Inova commenced construction of a decline at Merlin in late 2010 and reported that phase 1 was completed in early 2012. Phase 2 of the decline development is awaiting project approval. Inova has reported molybdenum drill core intersections both north and south of Merlin and has suggested the region may represent a new molybdenum-rhenium province. Inova has been investigating strategic partnership options to secure long-term funding needed to progress development of Merlin and its other projects in the Cloncurry area. In mid-August 2013 Shanxi Donghui Coal Coking and Chemicals Group Company Limited (Shanxi Donghui) announced it intended to make an off-market takeover offer for Inova.

In early 2013, Syndicated Metals Limited (Syndicated) withdrew from the Kalman Joint Venture with Mount Dockerell (a 100% owned subsidiary of Cerro Resources NL). Under the joint venture, agreed to in May 2011, Syndicated had a controlling interest and management of the Kalman molybdenum-rhenium-copper-gold (Au) project, with rights to earn an 80% interest. Syndicated and Mount Dockerell have reverted to a previously agreed joint venture, the Pelican JV, which includes approximately half of the Kalman deposit. Mount Dockerell has 51% interest in this joint venture with a right to earn up to 70%. The Kalman project is hosted by calc-silicate rocks of the Corella Formation within the eastern succession of the Mount Isa Inlier, around 60 km southeast of Mount Isa in northwest Qld. The deposit has Inferred Resources of 60.8 Mt at 0.05% Mo,  1.19 g/t Re, 0.32% Cu and 0.15g/t Au, with a contained 30.4 kt of Mo. A total of 27.3 kt Mo occurs within an identified internal molybdenum domain of 24.9 Mt at 0.11% Mo and 2.78 g/t Re. Syndicated undertook drilling in late 2011 as part of a planned update of the Kalman resource model which will be used as a basis for an economic evaluation of the deposit. In the second half of 2012 and early 2013 Syndicated completed a large soil geochemistry survey immediately west of the Kalman deposit which delineated two long linear zones with anomalous gold, copper and molybdenum.

Aeon Metals Limited (Aeon, formerly Aussie Q Resources Limited) continued exploration for porphyry copper-molybdenum mineralisation in its Rawbelle tenements near Monto, Qld. Focus was on both the advanced Greater Whitewash Project, comprising the Whitewash, Gordon's, Whitewash South and Windmill Hill molybdenum-copper deposits, and the company¿s copper-molybdenum exploration projects John Hill and Kiwi Carpet. The deposits of the Greater Whitewash Project occur within a 5km corridor along strike of each other. The deposits have a total JORC Code compliant resource of 242 Mt grading 258 ppm Mo, 1173 ppm Cu and 1.54 ppm Ag, including Indicated Resources of 185 Mt grading 263 ppm Mo, 1189 ppm Cu and 1.55 ppm Ag with a contained 48.5 kt Mo. Mineralisation in these deposits occurs as veins within a molybdenum-copper porphyry system confined within granodiorite. In December 2012 a mineral development licence was granted to Aeon for the Greater Whitewash Project. Conceptual modelling undertaken by the company suggested potential for an open pit mine with 13 year mine life and an estimated annual production of 45 000 tonnes per annum (tpa) of Mo, in addition to 20 000 tpa Cu and 800 000 ;ounces per annum of Ag. The company has undertaken favourable metallurgical testing with good recoveries of molybdenum, copper and silver. The John Hill and Kiwi Carpet copper-molybdenum targets are approximately 10 kms along strike from the Greater Whitewash Project. Drilling by Aeon has demonstrated that mineralisation at John Hill extends into the Kiwi Carpet area. Aeon considers the two form part of one large system in what it calls the Ben Hur project. Indications from the company are that the system is copper dominated. Drilling results from the first half of 2013 include 287 metres at 0.22% Cu, 161ppm Mo and 1.2g/t Ag, and 77 metres at 0.38% Cu, 290ppm Mo and 1.8g/t Ag, consistent with 2012 results. Aeon is continuing drilling aimed at defining a JORC resource for this system. Aeon also reported favourable results for drilling at other exploration prospects in the general region, including for the Kildare Project, 22km  south of the Greater Whitewash Project. The Kildare Project is owned by joint venture company SLW Queensland Pty Ltd (Aeon 35%, and Hong Kong based SLW Minerals 65%) and the Brigalow prospect, just north of the Greater Whitewash Project.

In February 2011, Zamia Metals Limited reported an upgraded JORC Code complaint Inferred Resource of 173 Mt grading 0.43% Mo at a cut-off grade of 200 ppm Mo, for 163 million pounds of contained Mo, for its Anthonymolybdenum deposit, approximately 60 km north-northwest of Clermont, Qld. The deposit is a porphyry molybdenum system associated with the Dead Horse Bore intrusive complex in which the molybdenite occurs in stockwork quartz veins and breccia zones within intrusive rocks as well as in surrounding schists of the Anakie Inlier. The deposit is oxidised to a depth of 60 to 80 metres. In June 2011 and March 2012, the Inferred Resources were upgraded to include the Oxide Resource and the Transitional Resource respectively, with total resources of 260 Mt at 400 ppm Mo, at a cut-off grade of 200 ppm Mo, for 230 million pounds of contained Mo. Recent work has focused on regions adjacent to the Anthony deposit. Zamia is currently developing a geological model of the Anthony system in and around the Anthony deposit, to better understand the deposit and potential for copper and gold mineralisation.

Intermin Resources Limited¿s (Intermin) wholly owned Julia Creek Vanadium-Molybdenum project has a total resource of 5308 Mt grading 0.375% vanadium oxide (V2O5) and 312 g/t molybdenum trioxide (MoO3), within the St Elmo, Alisona and Lilyvale deposits, spread between Julia Creek and Richmond, in northwest Qld. Just over 80% or 4332 Mt of the total resource comprises Indicated Resources with contained molybdenum of slightly more than 900 kt. The resource includes Measured Resources of 204 Mt at 0.4% V2O5 and 300 g/t MoO3. Intermin's tenements are located within the Cretaceous Toolebuc Formation of the Eromanga Basin, where vanadium and molybdenum, as well as nickel and copper, occur within weathered and fresh oil shale horizons. The delineated resources are within the oxidised portions. In late May 2013, Intermin announced it had reached agreement with energy company Global Oil Shale Group (GOS) for GOS to acquire full ownership of tenements in the Julia Creek region. Intermin has  indicated it will keep the rights to recover metals from oil shales and any tailings and residues from oil shale mining by GOS. Intermin is also keeping control of those tenements in the Richmond region, which include the Lilyvale and Alisona deposits. Intermin has previously reported that the Lilyvale resource includes higher grade Indicated Resources of 87.7 Mt at 0.55% V2O5and 384 g/t MoO3.

In 2011, Metallic Minerals Limited completed the sale of its wholly owned subsidiary Wolfram Camp Mining Pty Ltd to the German mining company Deutsche Rohstoff AG (DRAG) to give DRAG an 85% stake in the Wolfram Camptungsten-molybdenum project, 90km west of Cairns in Qld. In November 2011, DRAG announced it had acquired full ownership of Tropical Metals Pty Ltd, which had held the remaining 15% of the Wolfram Camp Mine project, as well as all of the Bamford Hill tungsten-molybdenum deposit 25km south of Wolfram Camp. This gave DRAG full control over both deposits. The most up-to-date resource estimate for Wolfram Camp was released by Planet Metals Limited in May 2010 and reported 1.42 Mt grading 0.6% tungsten trioxide (WO3) and 0.12% Mo, comprising 0.78 Mt at 0.56% WO3 and 0.13% Mo in Indicated Resources and 0.64 Mt at 0.65% WO3 and 0.11% Mo in Inferred Resources. DRAG delivered its first WO3 concentrate from Wolfram Camp in February 2012. In June 2012 daily production was reported to be about 1.5 tonnes of concentrates a day and increased to between three and four tonnes of tungsten concentrates per day (plus by-product molybdenum concentrate) in February 2013 following upgrading of the treatment plant and commissioning of a new X-ray sorter. DRAG has forecast that the Wolfram Camp mine will produce approximately 7000 tonnes of WO3concentrates and 800 tonnes of Mo concentrates during the next four years. The company also announced a planned exploration program at both Wolfram Camp and Bamford Hill.

Thor Mining PLC (Thor) has reported in January 2012 that its Molyhil tungsten-molybdenum project 250 km northeast of Alice Springs in the Northern Territory had Indicated Resources of 3.8 Mt at 0.29% WO3 and 0.22% molybdenum disulphide (MoS2) and Inferred Resources of 0.9 Mt at 0.25% WO3 and 0.25% MoS2. Resource figures include Probable Reserves in open cut at April 2012 of 1.64 Mt at 0.42% WO3 and 0.13% MoS2. Potential development of the project was hampered by the global financial crisis and a decline in international metal prices, resulting in the company scaling back activities. Thor had signed an off-take agreement with one of China¿s largest State-owned companies, CITIC Australia Trading Limited, committing it to take all molybdenum and tungsten concentrates produced from the project, but that agreement lapsed. However, the recent increase in tungsten prices has resulted in renewed interest and, in mid-2012, Thor completed a positive definitive feasibility study of the deposit, with a mine life of four years based on current reserves. Since mid-2012 Thor has been holding discussions with potential customers. Additional test work was undertaken by Thor to successively decrease molybdenum, uranium and thorium levels in scheelite concentrates to acceptable market levels. The company was also evaluating tungsten targets within the general region of the deposit and has undertaken geochemical surveys.

Moly Mines Limited¿s (Moly Mines) Spinifex Ridge Molybdenum-Copper Project, containing the Spinifex Ridge deposit is located in the Pilbara region about 50km northeast of Marble Bar. The Spinifex Ridge deposit has a Measured and Indicated Resource of 206.8 Mt at 0.06% Mo, 0.1% Cu and 1.5 g/t Ag and 445.5 Mt at 0.04% Mo, 0.07% Cu and 1.1 g/t Ag, respectively (2008 figures, reissued in 2012). The total resource of 652 Mt contains 294.5 kt Mo, 5.2 kt Cu and 26.4 million ounces Ag. Mineralisation at Spinifex Ridge occurs as vein-hosted molybdenite and chalcopyrite associated with an Archean granodiorite which has intruded mafic and felsic volcanic rocks. The Spinifex Ridge Molybdenum-Copper Project has all the necessary permits and is ready for immediate development. The deposit underwent a feasibility study and, prior to the global financial crisis, was scheduled to become Australia's only molybdenum producer. Development of the deposit was deferred in December 2011. As indicated by Moly Mines, the deposit is sub-economic at current metal prices and is on care and maintenance until markets improve. Prior to the downgrade by Moly Mines which resulted in reclassification of 220 kt of reserves to Paramarginal, the deposit contained more than 75% of Australia¿s EDR of molybdenum.

Caravel Minerals Limited (Caravel, previously Silver Swan Group) released a maiden exploration target of 60 to 100 Mt grading 0.33-0.38% Cu with associated Mo, Au and Ag, for its Dasher copper- molybdenum prospect, which is part of its Calingiri copper- molybdenum project, 120 km northeast of Perth. Caravel acquired the Calingiri project from Kingsgate Consolidated Limited in early 2013, with Kingsgate becoming the major shareholder in Caravel. The Dasher prospect occurs within a recently identified 30 km belt of Cu-Mo-Au mineralisation. Other prospects, identified by Induced Polarisation surveys include Edmunds, Cavel and Kurrali prospects, about 3km, 2.5km and 5km respectively south of the Dasher prospect, as well as previously recognised Ninan North, Ninan South, and Bartel (renamed Bindi by Caravel) prospects, all north of Dasher, and the Chapman (renamed Opie by Caravel) prospect, about 7.5km southeast of Dasher. Mineralisation largely comprises chalcopyrite and associated molybdenite as well as gold and silver. Best intercepts at Dasher include 233 metres at 0.44% copper equivalents and 122 metres at 0.46% copper equivalent. Reported molybdenum grades range from 100 ppm up to 300 ppm and higher. Metallurgical test work at Dasher has indicated recoveries of up to about 96% for copper and around 98% for Mo. Planning is currently underway for drilling programs to test identified prospects.

Peel Exploration Ltd (Peel) released a resource estimate in April 2008 of 1.29 Mt at 0.61% WO3 and 0.05% Mo, for the Attunga deposit 20km north of Tamworth in New South Wales (NSW). Mineralisation at the deposit occurs within skarns developed at the contact of a lime-rich sequence with the Inlet Monzonite. In 2010-11, Peel undertook a study to investigate development options, which revealed conditions were favourable for a low capital expenditure operation. There was no field activity in 2011-12. In April 2012, Peel indicated it had begun a review of the Attunga tungsten deposit. The company has indicated it is seeking potential joint venture/off-take partners.

In March 2012, Straits Resources Limited (Straits) announced a significant resource upgrade for its Temora copper-gold project southeast of West Wyalong in southern NSW. Total resources are 279 Mt at 0.5% Cu, 0.2 g/t Au, and 30 g/t Mo, of which 26 Mt at 0.3% Cu, 0.5 g/t Au and 30 g/t Mo are Indicated Resources with the remainder being Inferred Resources. The resource occurs within the Yiddah, Mandamah, Culingerai, Estoril and Dam prospects. Additional work since then involved drilling in the first half of 2012 aimed at expanding the resource envelope and identifying higher grade zones. Minimal work has been undertaken since.

In 2011, Zodiac Resources Pty Ltd (Zodiac), which is 58.7% owned by Goodrich Resources, entered a farm-in agreement with Augur Resources (Augur) that allowed Zodiac to acquire a 75% interest in Augur's Yeoval Project, about 85km north of Orange in NSW. Augur previously released an inferred JORC Code resource estimate for the Yeoval Porphyry deposit of 12.9 Mt at 0.38% Cu, 0.14 g/t Au, 120.1 g/t Mo, and 2.2 g/t Ag. Zodiac completed an Induced Polarisation survey around the Yeoval deposit and its environs in 2012 which suggested that the known mineralisation was part of a larger mineralised system. Drilling in late 2012 intersected potentially economic higher gold and copper grades on the eastern side of the resource, which is the focus of further exploration.

Dart Mining NL (Dart) released upgraded figures in September 2012 for its Unicorn Project 20km south of Corryong in northeast Victoria which show the deposit has total resources of 203 Mt at 355 ppm Mo, 480 ppm Cu and 2.97 ppm Ag. These include Measured Resources of 102 Mt at 367 ppm Mo, 599 ppm Cu and 3.58 ppm Ag for a contained 37.4 kt Mo, and Indicated Resources of 35 Mt at 362 ppm Mo, 414 ppm Cu and 2.75 ppm Ag for a contained 12.7 kt Mo. Molybdenite (MoS2) mineralisation at Unicorn is associated with rhyolitic intrusives and occurs within stockwork veins in the rhyolites, surrounding metasediments and breccia zones. It is disseminated also throughout the rhyolites. Dart completed a favourable scoping study into the deposit in October 2012 which suggested an initial open pit mine life of 14 years with annual production of 10 million tonnes per annum (Mtpa). Metallurgical testing demonstrated molybdenum recoveries of more than 90%. A prefeasibility study is underway. In late 2012 Dart announced a deep drilling program at Unicorn to test depth extensions of mineralisation. Two holes were completed by the middle of 2013, the deepest of which extended to 1194 metres, ending in mineralised porphyry. The drilling intersected a number of mineralised zones which Dart interpreted to indicate a similarity to the Climax-style porphyry model of stacked mineralised zones.

Havilah Resources NL (Havilah) reported a combined JORC Code compliant Indicated and Inferred Resource of 11.3 Mt grading 0.89% Cu, 0.64 g/t Au and 500 ppm Mo for 5.68 kt of contained Mo for its wholly owned North Portia deposit 30km north of its Kalkaroo deposit in South Australia. The vein and breccia style of mineralisation at the North Portia deposit is hosted in a 150 metre sequence of carbonate-rich siltstones and shales. Resources occur in both supergene and sulphide mineralisation. Havilah also identified a standalone supergene molybdenum resource with Indicated Resources of 7.7 Mt at 340 ppm Mo for a contained 2.6 kt of Mo. Havilah indicate that a mining lease has been granted for North Portia and that metallurgy and mining studies are in progress, particularly with regards to the copper-gold-molybdenum in the oxidised ore. Current planning suggests North Portia ore once mined will be treated at the Kalkaroo Plant. Operations at the Kalkaroo copper-gold project are expected to begin in late 2015.

McKay, A.D., Miezitis, Y., Porritt, K., Britt, A.F., Champion, D.C., Cadman, S., Towner, R., Summerfield, D., Whitaker, A., Huston, D., Jaireth, S., Sexton, M., Schofield, A., Hoatson, D., Senior, A.B. & Carson, L., 2014. Australia's Identified Mineral Resources 2013. Geoscience Australia, Canberra, Australia. http://dx.doi.org/10.11636/1327-1466.2013