Development resumes at Henderson mine following 2-year hiatus, production decreases; mine life gets extended |

Development resumes at Henderson mine following 2-year hiatus, production decreases; mine life gets extended

Lance Maggart

Development of Henderson Mine, located over Berthoud Pass just outside Grand County, will resume this fall after nearly a two-year hiatus initiated by production decreases from the local mining complex.

The redevelopment plans come after two rounds of layoffs in late 2015 saw employment at the combined Henderson facilities reduced by 210 positions.

Officials from Freeport-McMoRan’s corporate offices confirmed on Monday plans to resume mine development activities later this fall.

“Due to improvements made in the mine plan, increased productivity by the Henderson employees and a stronger molybdenum market, Henderson is taking steps to resume mine development activities at the 7210 A Panel,” said Eric Kinneberg, spokesperson for Freeport-McMoRan

A mine panel is a production area of a block cave mine. According to mine representatives, panel mining is a type of mining whereby broken ore is removed from the mining level and the ore above continues to break and “ave” by gravity. The new panel development will be located at the Henderson Mine.

To accomplish its goal, Freeport-McMoRan, headquartered in Phoenix and operator of Henderson Mill on the west side of Grand County, plans to hire a mining contractor to develop the mining panel. Corporate officials estimated the contractor would need approximately 35 workers for the job. The Henderson Mine is also currently short-staffed with around 50 open positions. Those positions will help support development of the mine and will fill jobs that became open through worker attrition.

Kinneberg added that the new development plans have extended the anticipated mine life of the Henderson Mine from 2020 out to 2026.

Officials from Freeport-McMoRan confirmed a contractor has been hired for the mine development work. That contractor, according to Kinneberg, is expected to hire new employees to fill most of the positions required for the development work.

Plans to extend the mine life of Henderson follow a rebound in molybdenum prices and increased demand for upgraded molybdenum products like those made from the molybdenum concentrates produced at Freeport-McMoRan facilities.

Officials said the new development work would not impact the rate of molybdenum production for the facilities, though it will extend the life of operations at the mine.

In late 2015 when the publicly-traded company announced the first round of layoffs for the Henderson complex, molybdenum prices were less than $5 per pound. In its announcement this week, Freeport-McMoRan stated prices for the element, often used as an additive in high grade or stainless steel, have climbed to roughly $8.30 per pound. Market demand for molybdenum products, such as lubricant grade molybdenum, has also increased.

Increases in production, and by extension labor demands, are likely to have significant impacts on Grand and Clear Creek counties. The two facilities currently employ about 315 people with 215 located at the mine slightly west of Empire and the mill south of Williams Fork Reservoir and the small hamlet of Parshall.

Even at the current, reduced, staffing levels, the Henderson Mill and Mine complex produces approximately 22,000 tons of ore per day.

Prior to the decrease in activity in late 2015, production figures for the combined facilities totaled roughly 27 million pounds of molybdenum annually. That figure fell to about 10 million pounds per year after production cutbacks and the two rounds of layoffs.

Freeport-McMoRan officials explained that the mine development work will not significantly increase staffing levels at the Henderson Mill in Grand County.

Moving forward, Freeport-McMoRan said the timeline needed to mine all ore reserves from Henderson, which would require additional panels, would extend out to 2040 if current production rates are maintained. No formal decision has been made about such future plans, however.

“Decisions whether to make the investment in mine development at Henderson will be made at a later time and would be dependent on market conditions and production factors at the time,” said officials from Freeport-McMoRan.

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