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Eureka Comes Back to Life
by Harry Spencer
Mar 10, 2012 | 558 views | 0 0 comments | 2 2 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Tribune/Jill Lufrano
These stones were found at the Gibellini project in Eureka County.
Tribune/Jill Lufrano These stones were found at the Gibellini project in Eureka County.
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Eureka is a tiny hamlet that sits astride Highway 50 approximately 77 miles west of Ely and 70 miles east of Austin. Once a bustling mining town, it has not quite achieved ghost town status, but has developed into a haven for artistic types. Some of its most important businesses are shuttered and waiting for a change of fortune.

In the dark economic picture that is Nevada today this is one bright spot. The town of Eureka is looking for rebirth as a great mining center. There are two major projects that have been announced near Eureka: one is the General Moly Mt. Hope molybdenum mine and the other is a vanadium mine. Of the two, the Mt. Hope molybdenum mine is the largest and promises to add several hundred jobs to the area.

The town of Eureka is well named, because it is a universal expression miners used to use when discovering riches in the earth. The vanadium project, located southeast of Eureka, will be a surface mining effort with bulldozers scraping the ore which is at ground level. The Mt. Hope molybdenum mine is located 23 miles northwest of Eureka.

Following permitting and construction, the Mt. Hope molybdenum mine features a mine life of 44 years, will employ approximately 400 people in high-quality mining industry jobs and is projected to generate hundreds of millions of dollars in local, state and federal tax revenue. General Moly is already a proven and integral member of the Eureka community and will be an important element in the economic diversification of Nevada.

Molybdenum is primarily used as an alloying agent in a wide range of steels and alloys. The grayish non-toxic metal is employed in various steels, including many stainless steel grades because of durability, strength and robust qualities. Molybdenum alloys are resistant to extremely high temperatures as molybdenum has both a very low thermal expansion, and one of the highest melting points of all elements. These qualities, in conjunction with the other properties of molybdenum, limit consumers’ ability or desire to substitute for other metals in its numerous applications. Demand for molybdenum was growing at nearly a 7percent Compound Average Growth Rate (CAGR) prior to the economic collapse of 2008. Since then, demand has again begun to grow, although at lower rates, as many industries have sought to develop new materials that benefit from molybdenum’s alloying properties.

Molybdenum’s composition and characteristics make it an ideal and pragmatic choice for utilization in jet and turbine engines, aircraft parts, electrical contacts, industrial motors, nuclear energy reactors, lighting, glass manufacturing and other hot-zone applications where molybdenum is commonly alloyed with titanium, zirconium, and carbon. Molybdenum is also utilized in non-metallurgical applications; importantly as a catalyst in the hydrodesulphurization of crude oil in the petroleum refining industries, specialty lubricants and plastics. Over 80 percent of all molybdenum is used in a metallurgical application, while over 60 percent of all molybdenum is utilized within the energy industry, leading some industry participants to name molybdenum as “the energy metal.”

Industrial analysis of molybdenum end-uses shows the steel industry holding the largest market share, accounting for approximately 84 percent of world molybdenum consumption in 2011. This is led by construction steel, which accounts for 36 percent of global demand, closely followed by stainless steel, accounting for 25 percent of global demand. Specialty steels such as Tool and High Strength Steels, Super Alloys and pure molybdenum metal jointly comprise 20 percent of global demand with Cast Irons rounding out the metallurgic component of molybdenum demand. Chemicals represent the remaining 12 percent of global demand, which is primarily comprised of catalysts utilized in oil refining.

Increased knowledge of specialty steels like duplex steels, are being employed more extensively in applications around the world. Duplex steels have much higher contents of molybdenum than traditional stainless steels and lower levels of nickel.

Molybdenum will play a critical role as the world seeks more environmentally friendly energy sources, including both conventional and renewable sources. More pipelines will be required to be constructed to exploit the world’s growing sources of natural gas. Using molybdenum in the pipelines increases the strength of the steel while providing for corrosion protection, allowing producers to use lower-weight steels that last longer. Molybdenum bearing steels are also extensively utilized in both coal and nuclear power facilities.

Meanwhile, growth in the world’s demand for crude oil, in combination with the tightening of global emissions standards, will substantially increase the demand for molybdenum in catalyst form to produce the cleaner fuels required to meet lower emissions targets across the globe. In renewable energy, Molybdenum is finding uses in solar CGIS solar cells, where a thin layer of molybdenum near the bottom of the cell helps to transfer the electricity generated from the solar cell to circuits external to the panel. In wind power, Molybdenum is helping to create more efficient wind turbines by lowering the weight of turbine blades and decreasing the turbine’s resistance to air flows. Lastly, both biofuels and ethanol production are highly corrosive, and molybdenum steels are utilized extensively in that industry’s production, transportation, and storage facilities.

Eureka was established by prospectors in 1864. Mining, as well as other entrepreneurial mining support enterprises, such as farming, ranching, retail businesses and the service industry have sustained the towns and communities throughout the county of Eureka. General Moly’ Mt. Hope molybdenum mine will augment the rich history and beneficial legacy of mining, which is the indelible foundation and future of Eureka.

Harry Spencer is a Reno freelance writer.
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