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Celebrate bringers of better ways

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By John Bartlit

 Molybdenum, the unpronounceable metal, is a timely topic for this holiday eve. And not just for the yellow-green fire that molybdenum adds to fireworks.
We celebrate the start of cleanup work at the Chevron Questa Mine Superfund Site in Taos County.
The decades of old-style molybdenum mining and milling near Questa left environmental problems for others to deal with. The current owner of the operations is Chevron Mining. Most of the mess was made by Molycorp, Inc.
How does mining work? Surface rock is removed to get at the ore. The ore is mined and sent to the mill nearby that extracts molybdenum and leaves behind the tailings to dispose of.
 Mining began at the site in 1920. Open pit mining along the Red River was done from 1965 to 1983 and left 328 million tons of cut-up rock in nine piles around the pit. The rock, with sunlight, air and water, generates acid that moves as it will. The mining now is underground.  
Most molybdenum is used to improve the strength, toughness, and wear and corrosion resistance of steel, cast iron and superalloys. In short, a little molybdenum makes other metals stronger and last longer. Metals being stronger for longer equates to less metal and less scrap.
Cleanup will begin in four areas.


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