Letters From the West

Thompson Creek announces plans to stop mining molybdenum in Idaho

The pit at the Thompson Creek Mine 35 miles southwest of Challis.

The pit at the Thompson Creek Mine 35 miles southwest of Challis.

Mining will end later this year at the Thompson Creek molybdenum mine west of Challis because of the low price of molybdenum.

The mine has 250 workers and represents 40 percent of the tax rolls for Custer County.
The company, already had suspended work on the mine’s next phase following a decline in the price of molybdenum in 2012 laying off 100 employees and dropping from a peak of about 400 employees, which made it the largest employer in Custer County. The company said its current decision was based on further weakness in the market and operating costs.

“Management intends to preserve the assets at Thompson Creek Mine while it is on care and maintenance to enable the company to re-commence operations when molybdenum market conditions improve,” it said in a statement.

Ironically, the Idaho Conservation League had supported the company’s expansion plans in 2012 to preserve its environmental rehabilitation programs.

The Thompson Creek mine, in Idaho, began operations in 1983, and was once Thompson Creek’s flagship asset. Now the Denver-based company has diversified its business to shore up earnings, adding copper and gold to its molybdenum assets.
Its new Mt. Milligan copper and gold mine in British Columbia reached commercial production on Feb. 18.

Rocky Barker is the energy and environment reporter for the Idaho Statesman and has been writing about the West since 1985. He is the author of Scorched Earth How the Fires of Yellowstone Changed America and co-producer of the movie Firestorm: Last Stand at Yellowstone, which was inspired by the book and broadcast on A&E Network. He also co-authored the Flyfisher's Guide to Idaho and the Wingshooter's Guide to Idaho with Ken Retallic. He also was on the Statesman’s team that covered the Sen. Larry Craig sex scandal, which was one of three Pulitzer Prize finalists in breaking news in 2007. The National Wildlife Federation awarded him its Conservation Achievement Award.

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Posted in Letters from the West