Freeport Officials Plan Additional Mine Panel Development at Henderson

By Lance Maggart

For the past two years the global molybdenum market has been on the rebound and thanks to the continued strength of that market officials from Freeport-McMoRan, owners of the vast Henderson Mill and Mine complex, expect local operations in Grand and Clear Creek Counties to continue for the next two decades.

Earlier this week officials from Freeport-McMoRan confirmed the ongoing development of the 7210 A Panel at Henderson Mine, located in Clear Creek County just over the Continental Divide from Grand County.

“Based on current production and development plans, Henderson is expected to operate for roughly the next 20 years,” Ruthanne Van Dyke, director of corporate communications for Freeport, stated. “Development activities are moving forward. Drift development is complete and we have started caving, which is the first step toward production.”

Van Dyke noted that workers at Henderson are also beginning the process of drift development on an additional panel at Henderson at this time. This new panel development comes nearly two years after officials from Freeport announced the impending development of the 7210 A Panel at Henderson Mine in late August 2017.

The announcement of additional planned panel developments at Henderson will be welcome news to the workers and contractors who are employed at the mine, which increased employment at the mine and mill complex over the past two years after conducting multiple rounds of layoffs several years ago.

In August 2015 officials from Freeport announced plans to layoff 80 workers between the mine and mill facilities. That announced was followed a few months later in December with the announcement of another round of 130 layoffs. In August 2017 though Freeport announced plans to resume development at the mine in light of a stronger molybdenum market.

According to the commodity price tracking website Trading Economics the price of molybdenum reached it lowest point in October 2015, shortly after Freeport announced the first round of layoffs at Henderson. The cost of molybdenum on March 11, 2019 was roughly 150 percent higher than it was at it’s lowest point in Oct. 2015.

“The molybdenum market is subject to many of the same forces as the general world economy,” Van Dyke explained. “We endeavor to supply our customers with reliable, high-quality products so they can provide high-quality steels for many applications.”

Molybdenum as a commodity is typically used as an additive to produce high strength steel alloys. It is often used in stainless steel production and is a common additive to steels that are used in high heat environments such as automotive engine parts.

As the molybdenum market shows continued strength officials from Freeport have sought to fill numerous positions at both the mine and the Henderson Mill, which is located in Grand County south of Williams Fork Reservoir near Ute Pass.

According to Van Dyke, over 50 people have been hired at the mine since mid-2017 and the company is still looking to fill over two dozen additional vacancies. Likewise the Henderson Mill is currently understaffed as well with approximately 10 positions still unfilled. Van Dyke noted there are approximately 130 employees working at the Henderson Mill and an additional 245 employees at the Henderson Mine, not counting the employment roles of contractors who perform mine development work and construction and fabrication work.

Freeport-McMoRan is a Phoenix based publically traded corporation. Based on information taken from the companies 2017 filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission it was the world’s largest producer of molybdenum and the second largest producer of copper.

This article was published in Sky-Hi News on March 14, 2019.