Lead Ban Chronicles – Last US Lead Smelter Closing

October 29, 2013

Lead Ban ChroncilesJust a note that is related and not related to the lead ammo ban discussion.  However, what it does suggest is that lead ammo prices won’t be coming down any time soon, and will probably continue to increase.  Copper may start to look pretty darned good.

What am I talking about?  The news came out last week, but it wasn’t until I read the stories that I realized the implications of the last US lead smelter shutting its doors.  Due to increased regulatory restrictions, the company in Herculaneum, MO has realized that it can’t meet the emissions rules.

There are still recycled lead smelters operating in the country, but with the loss of this major facility, lead bullion for ammunition manufacture is bound to be more difficult (and expensive) to acquire.  Seriously, it might be time to start looking at lead alternatives for a whole new reason… it may be as cheap as, or cheaper than, lead.

Funny how things happen.


3 Responses to “Lead Ban Chronicles – Last US Lead Smelter Closing”

  1. Neil on October 31st, 2013 08:58

    First look at this makes me react the way I do whenever I find out we don’t do things anymore, whether lead or rare earth minerals, or for that matter the fact that there’s only one company left in the United States of America that makes tennis shoes. So I’m not saying this isn’t a concern particularly from a national security perspective, since if we ever had to fight a large scale war it isn’t like we could just ask for some lead.

    One wonders what percentage of lead for bullets the smelter was contributing. That would tell the more immediate impact. I think it’s safe to say that every bullet made in the US wasn’t from that plant. They’re responsible for about 11% of worldwide lead production, and most of that goes to batteries. That’s a good percentage, and it’s hard to say how it will affect the cost of the commodity but of course probably upward.

    If you dig deeper, the operator has had issues for decades, at one point having to buy a good part of the town- over a hundred houses. It’s worth looking onto the various articles about the operator, Doe Run. I’m not declaring them to be some kind of badguy, because like many things they probably figured out problems after the fact. It seems in this case one of the biggest problems was simply the route the trucks with ore took through the town. They’d always done it that way, so they never even thought of it.

    This comes down to the same as many of the issues of having a huge populace living in an industrial world. We might like lead bullets, the energy independence and maybe some income from the fracking boom, jobs from a copper mine or a wood pulp plant or whatever, until it’s your kid with behavior problems in a remedial math class, the groundwater on your ranch is tainted, or a high rate of cancer in your town. All this stuff works better in theory when it’s somewhere else. I don’t have a solution for this except a bit of a balancing act. I do know that I can see the changes in pollution levels declining in my lifetime so when people talk about eliminating the EPA I don’t buy it. I think most of us who love the outdoors like healthy rivers, wild lands, clear skies. The problem is we still live in a world that is often and will likely continue to be at odds with those goals.

  2. Phillip on November 1st, 2013 10:20

    Good points, fellas, and taken by itself, this probably isn’t that big a deal. But along with the high prices of raw materials and the rate with which lead and other metals are being mined for foreign markets, there’s a cumulative effect that it may behoove us to keep an eye on. The cost of lead ammo has been creeping steadily upward anyway…

    And John, I fixed the MS error. Thanks for catching it.

    As to the rest of Neil’s comments, I think you’ve hit on something key here… and that’s the cost of continuing status quo in a changed environment. I don’t think Doe Run Industries was necessarily a “bad guy” in this, but neither was the EPA (which I would hate to see eliminated).

  3. Lead Ban Chronicles – Is Lead Smelter Closure An Anti-Gun Conspiracy? : Hog Blog on December 4th, 2013 14:26

    […] of you may remember that, a few weeks back, I posted about the closure of the last US primary lead smelting facility.  Based on what I was reading at the time, it sounded like it could have an impact on lead prices, […]