Global molybdenum suppliers, supply regions and production
Molybdenum is the top-traded product category on the Metalshub digital marketplace. The Metalshub platform offers access to companies around the world to buy and sell a great variety of molybdenum products. This article provides a background on suppliers, supply regions, the production process, and applications for molybdenum products. For purchasing professionals involved in buying raw materials for the iron and steel industry, it is essential to understand entire the molybdenum value chain.
Major mining countries and suppliers of molybdenum
China: The molybdenum mine production in China was around 130,000 mt of Mo in 2019, making the country the largest producer worldwide according to Statista. China has a large market for ferromolybdenum and molybdenum oxide due to its large-scale steel sector which consumes large quantities as an alloy element. Some of the most important molybdenum producers in China are China Molybdenum, Jinduicheng Molybdenum Corp. (JDC) and Jinzhou Xintai Metallurgy mainly located across in the three provinces Shaanxi, Liaoning, and Shanxi.
Chile: With an annual mine molybdenum production of 58,000 mt in 2019, Chile is the second-largest molybdenum producer in the world, according to Statista. Much of Chile’s molybdenum production comes as a by-product from copper mining. The state-owned company Codelco is the largest producer. KGHM Polska Miedz is also a large molybdenum producer with its Sierra Gorda copper-molybdenum mine in the Atacama Desert in the Antofagasta region.
USA: Mined molybdenum production in the USA was equivalent to about 44,600 mt in 2019. Molybdenum is produced in seven mines, only two of which are pure molybdenum mines. One of the two primary mines is the Climax mine owned by Freeport-McMoRan in Colorado. Another large copper-molybdenum mine is Kennecott mine which is owned by Rio Tinto.
Europe: there is hardly any mined molybdenum production in the entire European Economic Area. However, certain quantities of molybdenum can be recovered from the recycling of steel alloys or spent catalysts. Moreover, companies such as Climax Molybdenum, a subsidiary of Freeport-McMoRan and Molymet operate processing plants in the UK and Belgium where FeMo is produced. Also, professional trading companies such as Scandinavian Steel, Traxys, Euromet, MP Diffusion or Hempel ensure with their product know-how and logistics competence the supply of molybdenum products to European steel mills and foundries.
To help consumers have easy access to global producers of molybdenum and enable them to increase efficiency in requests for offers, the digital B2B platform Metalshub brings together a pool of major molybdenum producers in one digital marketplace for various molybdenum products. Producers and suppliers are regularly listing their latest product offerings on the Metalshub Buyers and traders that register with Metalshub have direct access to this supplier base at their fingertips. With more than 80 suppliers available, buying molybdenum products such as ferromolybdenum or molybdenum oxide at market prices has never been easier!
Molybdenum is contained in various minerals, but only molybdenite (MoS2) has suitable properties for commercially viable production. In ores, molybdenite generally occurs in quantities ranging from 0.01 to 0.25 % and is often associated with minerals of other metals, especially copper. Therefore, molybdenum is mainly extracted in small percentages as a by-product of copper mining. Depending on the minerals contained in the ore body and their composition, molybdenum mines are generally divided into primary mines and by-product mines.
The mined ore is first crushed with ball or rod mills and then ground to very fine particles. The next step is flotation, where the ground ore is mixed with a liquid and aerated. The resulting molybdenite concentrate contains between 85% and 92 % MoS2 and is subsequently roasted at temperatures between 500 and 650 °C. Roasting converts the MoS2 concentrate into roasted molybdenite concentrate (MoO3), also known as technical grade molybdenum oxide (short MoOx).
Value-added molybdenum products
Molybdenum oxide (MoOx) can be used directly to alloy various steel grades, where it is normally added with the scrap charge to ensure the desired molybdenum (Mo) content. It typically contains between 56 % and 58 % Mo and is the basis from which nearly all commercial molybdenum products such as Ferromolybdenum (FeMo), molybdenum metal or chemical molybdenum oxide are produced through further processing. MoOx comes in the form of powder which can be further processed into briquettes which are easier to handle by many steel plants. Around 30 % to 40 % of MoOx produced is converted into FeMo by processing plants of companies such as Molymet or Treibacher.
Ferromolybdenum is an alloy of iron and molybdenum. It is produced by reducing MoOx together with iron oxide in an aluminothermic reaction. FeMo is available in various grades with a molybdenum content between 60 % and 75 %, mainly in the form of lumps with a grain size of 5-50mm or 10-50mm. The packaging is typically in steel drums or 1mt big bags. FeMo can be added during the steel or cast iron production process as an alloying agent. From MoOx, pure molybdenum metal can be obtained by further hydro- and pyrometallurgical processing. Pure molybdenum metal (>99.9 % Mo) is available in numerous shapes and forms such as wafers, granules, ingots, pellets, pieces, powder, rod, wire or sputtering targets. Ultrahigh-purity and high-purity forms also include metal powder, which is used in additive manufacturing.
Molybdenum is a real all-rounder: extreme hardness, corrosion resistance, and the third-highest melting point of all metals at +2,623 C degrees. It is one of the most valuable alloying agents in various steels and cast iron, as it improves strength, hardenability, weldability, toughness, high-temperature resistance as well as corrosion resistance. It is therefore not surprising that about 80 % of this metal is consumed in the production of various steel grades, such as construction steels, stainless steels, high-speed steels, tool steels, and many more. Molybdenum-based alloys provide a unique combination of mechanical properties, including high strength at elevated temperatures, high thermal and electrical conductivity with low thermal expansion. In nickel-based alloys, molybdenum is particularly valued for its resistance to creep deformation at high temperatures.
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