Molybdenum price is on a tear

Euhedral, hexagonal molybdenite on quartz, from Molly Hill mine, Quebec, Canada. The large crystal is 15mm across. Image: John Chapman

While base metals have enjoyed a good 2016 so far with only lead (-5%) in negative territory for the year and the likes of zinc (+27%) and tin (+18%) entering bull markets, molybdenum is making a star turn.

A metric tonne of molybdenum on the London Metal Exchange fetched $16,500 on Thursday after customs data from China showed imports of concentrate and oxides surged 131% in May. Over the first five months of the year, China imported 8,851 tonnes of molybdenum concentrates and oxide, up 89% year on year.

The price of molybdenum has shot up 43.5% year to date as it recovers from a record low of $10,200 hit in October last year.

Thinly traded and primarily produced as byproduct of copper mining with annual supply of less than 270,000 tonnes a year, the molybdenum price is bound to be volatile, but the last year has been particularly topsy-turvey – the metal is still only worth half of what in July 2015.

The difficult environment has led several molybdenum mine closures in north America which together with China supply more than two-thirds of the world’s molybdenum used primarily in steel alloys.

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