Molybdenum

Vincent, J. D. ; Briggs, Janet ; Cutherbertson, R. E. ; Shirley, J. F. ; Sutulov, Alexander ; Vertes, Michael
Organization: Society for Mining, Metallurgy & Exploration
Pages: 36
Publication Date: Jan 1, 1985
Molybdenum, the 42nd element in the periodic table, is now a very important metal in industry of the United States and the world. Chemically, it is a very complex element having valences of 0, +2, +3, +4, +5, and +6, and can exist as a mixture of these valences in many compounds. It was discovered and separated by Scheele in 1778. At the present time, molybdenite is the only important commercial source of molybdenum. Molybdenum occurs in some 12-14 different recognized minerals, but practically all of the production is molybde¬nite. As late as 1915, it was considered a rare metal. Germany made extensive use of it during the first world war, which resulted in the establishment of a molybdenum industry in the United States at Cli¬max, Colo., in 1917. It was not until the mid-1920s when its introduc¬tion to steelmaking developed for the US automobile industry that the metal gained important acceptance. The first notable example was the Willis-Saint Claire automobile introduced in 1921 by C. Harold Willis, formerly chief metallurgist for Ford Motor Co. Molybdenum has also been produced in the US from wulfenite (PbMoO4) from Arizona and Nevada, and a small amount of molyb¬denite was produced up to the early 1970s as a coproduct from two molybdenum-bismuth mines in Quebec, Canada. The first byproduct production of molybdenite from a copper con¬centrating operation was achieved at Cananea, Sonora, Mexico, and was followed shortly by the Utah division of Kennecott Copper Co. in the mid-1930s. This section of the Handbook is divided into four main subdivi¬sions: Chapter 2, which deals with the concentration and recovery of molybdenite from primary molybdenum ores; Chapter 3, which deals with the recovery and separation of molybdenite as a byproduct from copper production; Chapter 4, which deals with the conversion practices employed for converting molybdenite to the oxide or metal form; and Chapter 5, which covers the uses of molybdenum in steel¬making, chemicals, pigments, lubrication, catalysts, etc. The Free World molybdenum production, for the past eight years from all sources, is shown in Table 1. 2. Primary Molybdenite Ores General In 1978 there were four primary molybdenite recovery plants in operation: Climax, Endako, Quests, and Henderson. For over half a century the Climax mine has been by far the largest and most important source of molybdenum in the world. During the early 1970s a few primary molybdenite mines in British Columbia were shut down due to adverse economical conditions. The largest of these was British Columbia Molybdenum, formerly owned by Kennecott Copper Corp. The Climax plant and operations are described in detail and the opera¬tions of the other plants are summarized following a general discussion of recovering molybdenite from primarily molybdenite ores. Recovery of molybdenite as a byproduct will be taken up in Chapter 3. Geology Molybdenite production from mines in which it is the sole or preponderantly important mineral is confined to ore bodies in granites or igneous-type rocks or pegmatite dikes. More than one state of mineralization is sometimes present as at Climax, York, Hardy, and Questa. In the case of Climax, important byproduct recovery of tung¬sten, tin, pyrite, and monazite is also attained. The molybdenite is commonly disseminated very finely in the siliceous granitic gangue but does occur in stringers and blebs in silicified mineral solution channels. Treatment of Primary Molybdenum Ores All primary molybdenum ores are low in molybdenite, the content ranging from less than 0.20% MoS2 to a high of about 0.40% MoS2. A high resistance to grinding is a common ore characteristic combined with a habit of very fine dissemination of molybdenite in the siliceous portion of the ore. Because of low MoS2 content, high hardness, and fine dissemination of molybdenite in primary ores, it has been necessary to develop a special mill treatment which yields an accepta¬ble recovery at a reasonably low milling cost. Essentially, the treatment consists of intensive rougher flotation at a relatively coarse grind with production of a low grade rougher froth containing a substantial percentage of the molybdenite in the form of low grade middling particles, followed with multistage regrinding to liberate the locked molybdenite and several stages of flotation cleaning to produce a finished grade concentrate. Rougher flotation on pulp ground to ap¬proximately 35 mesh is common practice, even if complete liberation of molybdenite from siliceous gangue may require regrinding to 200 mesh. The flotation of middling particles with a very low content of molybdenite in the rougher flotation step has been made possible by the application of a combination of reagents first developed at the Climax mill and used with some modification in the treatment of all primary molybdenum ores. The reagents commonly employed and their functions in flotation are:
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