View Full Version : ALERT - Last lead smelter in US to shut down

10-22-2013, 06:35 PM

Last Remaining Lead Smelter In The USA Closing After 120 Years

Suddenly the US Army’s obsession with lead-free ammunition makes perfect sense, it was about security not the environment. A reader writes …

The last remaining lead smelter, in Herculaneum MO, is closing down. This will undoubtedly affect the price of lead, since the lead that is mined in Viburnum MO will now be sent out of the US for smelting.

Missouri’s Lead Belt has been the primary source of lead for the US since 1700. A lead smelter has been in operation in Herculaneum since 1892. This is why Lake City, Federal, and other ammunition companies have been located in the region. The recent articles on shot towers don’t really apply to the ammunition industry that existed on the bluffs of the Mississippi river, since no tower was needed. The top of the ‘shot tower’ was simply an overhang by the river.

The EPA’s new clean air rules would require a $100 million dollar investment in new equipment. As such, the Doe Run Company has decided to close the site.

According to STL Today reports that the 145 jobs will be lost and the company will terminate 73 contractors. My understanding is that most, if not all, mines that produce lead ore in the USA also produce a number of other minerals, so this does not necessarily mean job losses in the mining sector.

With the USA no longer producing lead, almost all of the worlds lead will come from China, Australia and Peru.



Doe Run workers to be cut at end of December

HERCULANEUM • About 145 employees of the Doe Run lead smelter have learned they will lose their jobs at the end of December because of the plant’s closure, the Doe Run Co. said Wednesday. An additional 73 contractor jobs also will be eliminated.

The job cuts were expected. The plant, which has operated for more than a century and is the lone remaining lead smelter in the United States, announced in 2010 that it will cease operations at the end of this year.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency said the company “made a business decision” to shut down the smelter instead of installing pollution control technologies needed to reduce sulfur dioxide and lead emissions as required by the Clean Air Act.

The Doe Run Co. announced last year that it had dropped plans to build a new lead processing facility in Herculaneum that would have used a new, cleaner lead production technology. The company cited the

$100 million project as too financially risky.

Employees were notified of their future with the company or of their impending layoff between Sept. 30 and Oct. 8 in face-to-face meetings, said Tammy Stankey, a company spokeswoman.

The company will keep about 75 employees into 2014 to operate its refinery and strip mill and to prepare the property “for closure and repurposing.” It expects to have transferred 43 employees to other Doe Run divisions by this year’s end, according to a company statement.

Some operations, such as the water treatment plant, will operate indefinitely, and a maintenance staff will remain to “maintain essential facilities,” the company said.

The company said it had been working with employees for months to help them transition to new roles and had set up a career center to help with resume writing, interviewing and job searches.

“We have a very talented workforce and encourage businesses looking for dedicated, hardworking and skilled employees to contact us,” Gary Hughes, general manager of the smelter, said in the statement.

EPA has done it to the Lead industry - [smilie=b:

10-22-2013, 06:50 PM
Another worthless agency, EPA aka job/economy killer. This is not a good thing, job losses, and artificial market drag on a domestic resource that will now be 100% foreign import. "We need to reduce our reliance on foreign lead."

10-22-2013, 07:37 PM
...."We need to reduce our reliance on foreign lead."

I agree, we need to reduce our reliance on foreign everything!





Plastic Toys

I can go on all day. Thank the Labor Unions. The cost to make anything here is so high because of mandatory wages rather than competitive wages.

Funny thing is, their greed has put them out of business and moved much of our manufacturing over seas. Next will be machines to cook and assemble hamburgers at McDonalds and Burger King.

I am a Manufacturing Engineer in a country that now consumes rather than manufactures! I was told once that with my skills, if I wanted a good job, I should move to China! Yeah, right!

10-22-2013, 07:52 PM
As the last remaining lead smelter is shutting down, I imagine this will have an impact on the continued availability of lead wheel weights in the U.S. I expect the price of anything lead will increase, especially ingots for bullet casting. Thanks for this information.

10-22-2013, 09:19 PM
Sad. We are becoming a 3rd string player to China again.

Better buy any kind of lead you can find at today's prices for tomorrow it will be gone. Forget free WW's......you gotta buy them if you want them! I have 500# stored away from the past. Now it is time to alloy other lead and forget about finding them at shops. All thanks to EPA, owl huggers, and tree kissers. Oh......and don't forget the friigin condors!


10-22-2013, 09:33 PM
This will put a big dent in me recreational shooting,
not to mention the increase in the price of lead.

10-22-2013, 10:08 PM
The EPA would be the first letter agency (from a very long list) I would axe first.

10-23-2013, 12:48 AM
How long has Doe Run been the solo lead smelter for the USA?

From their website, I saw they processed 130,000 tons of finished lead from the Herculaneum plant in 2012. That's 25% of US lead mining capacity.

With the weight of lead, all transportation is expensive compared to other commodities, and even more subject to price increases due to transportation costs (i.e. gas/diesel/oil)

That's going to put pressure on Mexico as the next closest significant lead producer which also has strong smelting capacities coupled with very weak environment laws by comparison. Since Mexico's lead ore output is 1/4th that of the US, and all other sources are farther away, we should certainly be expecting significantly higher prices.

Edit - and that doesn't even touch on the highly problematic nature of buying our entire supply of bullet material from overseas.

10-23-2013, 07:47 AM
Ok, here is a different view. The US consumer buys Chinese stuff because its cheaper than the domestic stuff. Could lead from China and Mexico be in the same price range as the US stuff? We might not see any change in pricing, especially if that mine only processed 25% of the lead in the US.

10-23-2013, 10:46 AM
When you guys say process do you mean the plant is the only place that smelts from ore in the US? Isn't a large percentage of the US lead usage recycled i.e. not from ore? I know that for our use(shooting sports) most of it is not recycled but batteries have to be over 90% recycled I would think.

10-23-2013, 10:53 AM
I believe Doe Run is the only dedicated lead refinery. There are other refineries for gold and silver, with lead by-product. I'm kind of surprised it was financially lucrative to deal with lead, with no more valuable metal in the operation.

10-23-2013, 11:24 AM
As usual I see no real world benefit. People are still going to smelt down lead but now it will be done outside the borders. And this is somehow going to be better for the air quality? Do we stop air at the border for inspection? I would imagine whatever standards that company already had are still better than Mexico or China have. So as usual the government is killing off US jobs for no reason other than to further an agenda.

10-23-2013, 12:32 PM
This SUCKS!!!

10-23-2013, 12:44 PM
With how most of us doomsayers think our economy will shrink due to the ongoing Communist takeover. Recycled lead already in the USA should be plenty to meet the extremely small commercial demand.

Last week some stink was stirred up as the EPA is attempting to regulate occasional free flowing water. That would be rain water crossing your property or running in a road ditch. In other words. Just about every inch of US soil. It's not about clean air or water.

10-23-2013, 03:18 PM
Some of you may have seen this on an earlier thread. New members probably not.

But it is very appropriate here to familiarize everybody with the history of lead production.



10-24-2013, 01:23 PM
Here's a little history of the company:

And a little history of the EPA:

10-24-2013, 01:47 PM
With how most of us doomsayers think our economy will shrink due to the ongoing Communist takeover. Recycled lead already in the USA should be plenty to meet the extremely small commercial demand.

Last week some stink was stirred up as the EPA is attempting to regulate occasional free flowing water. That would be rain water crossing your property or running in a road ditch. In other words. Just about every inch of US soil. It's not about clean air or water.

The state of Maryland already taxes rainwater. I just paid my ~$150-ish annual rain tax.

More to the subject, at one time the federal government would have stepped in and either nationalized or subsidized an industry like the Doe Run plant, simply to retain that capability in the United States. Alternately, they would have set up a lead foundry at a government-run installation like they did with things like cast combat vehicle hulls and turrets at Rock Island Arsenal (a capability that has been lost). They also at least used to manufacture military-specific parts that were not cost-effective for commercial vendors to manufacture - things like parts for artillery pieces. I guess times have changed.

10-24-2013, 04:34 PM
Lead mining and smelting as a cottage industry....Hmmm. Loss of the sources of our raw material are concerning. Sounds like we need a 'time share' over one of the confirmed lead veins, hopefully one of the large ones. Another thread discussed a place to shoot, sort of a Cast Boolit refuge. The idea of a place to mine and smelt the source of our hobby seems even more necessary based on this new information.

The good news, maybe Rotometals can get Pb form China for a significantly lower cost, but I suspect the government will tax the importation of such dangerous material.

10-24-2013, 09:31 PM
The articles I've read said that Doe Run was shutting the plant down, but was going to start another one up that uses a more environmentally friendly (more expensive) purification process. It would be cheaper to them, they say, than retrofitting their old one on top of the large fines they've had to pay. They may or may not keep it in the US. I'm gonna be following this story.

10-24-2013, 10:21 PM
According to some people I know in that area, that plant is a recycling plant for old car batteries mainly. Besides, we've been importing lead for years. This won't be a problem as long as people don't start panic hoarding. I'll keep digging, but it doesn't look so bad.

10-25-2013, 02:05 AM
Look for the cost of storage batteries to double...

10-26-2013, 06:32 PM
Much ado about nothing. Lead for ammunition almost all comes from recycled batteries. Shutting down a 120 year old, uneconomical plant is not going to cause the cost of lead to go up. The larger Teck Cominco Smelter in Trail, BC, is so close to Washington you could probably stand on the US side and hit the smokestack with a good rifle. And if it makes sense to have domestic primary lead smelting in the US, someone will build a new one, designed from the ground up to not poison the landscape around it. In fact, it would probably be a good thing if the EPA could somehow force the same decision on the smelter at Trail. I've been there, the place is a disaster.

10-26-2013, 11:29 PM
Look for the cost of storage batteries to double...

They already have & check out the country of origin next time you're in the store.