Before the international financial crisis of 2007-2008, a ton of molybdenum sold for as high as US100, 000 on the London Metal Exchange.
Today the precious metal, one of the top exports of Armenia, goes for $17,500. Such instability over the years, and the downward trend in world prices, has a direct impact on Armenia’s economy.
The three largest producers of molybdenum – China, the US and Chile – affect world market prices in a variety of ways.
China also consumes 30% of the molybdenum produced annually, mostly for steel production.
Many analysts say that due to the opening of new mines in recent years in China, the US, and Chile, supply has outstripped demand and molybdenum prices have dropped as a result.
According to the latest stats issued by the International Molybdenum Association (IMOA), 539.2 million pounds (244,577 tons) of molybdenum were produced in 2013 and 522.5 million pounds (237,000 tons) consumed.
Metal Bulletin posits that the fall in molybdenum prices this year from a first quarter average of $18,900 per ton is due to a fall in demand and sluggish growth rates internationally. There’s also a theory that China is intentionally pulling back on its economic growth reins.
Due to a slight rise in molybdenum prices from May-June of 2014, Armenian exports of ferro-molybdenum (an important iron-molybdenum alloy containing 60-70% molybedum) appreciated in value compared to 2013. In 2014, Armenia exported 6,500 tons at a value of 45,614 billion AMD (US$94.7 million). In 2013 it exported 6,650 tons at a slightly less value of 41.936 billion AMD ($87.1 million).
All of the ferro-molybdenum produced in Armenia in 2014 (6,500 tons) was exported. Exports reached a high in 2013 (6,650 tons) and a low in 2010 (5,250 tons).
The biggest importers of Armenia’s ferro-molybdenum are Holland and Germany. Last year Holland imported 3,660 tons and Germany, 2,840 tons.
Armenia has not exported raw molybdenum since 2005. The ore is totally reprocessed into ferro-molybdenum at the Makour Yerkat and Armenian Molybdenum Production plants in Armenia.
Despite the fall in prices, molybdenum remains an important component of Armenia’s economy. In 2014 Makour Yerkat paid 2.271 billion AMD ($4.7 million) in taxes, and Armenian Molybdenum Production paid 906 million AMD ($1.9 million).
According to various sources Armenia holds 5-9% of the world’s known molybdenum reserves.
The extent to which falling molybdenum prices will impact Armenian export values remains unclear, but predictions aren’t positive.
We will have to wait until Armenia’s Customs Service publishes its next quarterly report.