Shooting Sports News

Last US Lead Smelter Makes Plans to Close, Could Affect Ammunition Manufacturing

The Doe Run plant in Herculaneum, Missouri is the last primary lead smelter in the country. The facility uses raw ore mined from local deposits.

The Doe Run plant in Herculaneum, Missouri is the last primary lead smelter in the country. The facility uses raw ore mined from local deposits.

By the end of this year the last primary lead smelter in the United States will be closing. According to a press release by the National Rifle Association’s Institute for Legislative Action (NRA-ILA), the Doe Run facility in Herculaneum, Missouri plans on closing its doors in December. The smelter has existed in the same location for the past 121 years and is currently the only facility of its kind that can produce lead bullion from raw ore. Other smaller, secondary smelters only have the capability of retrieving lead from used items such as ammunition or batteries.

For the last 25 years Doe Run had been grappling with environmentalists and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) over strict new air standards. According to KBIA Radio, the news of the smelter’s closure received a mixed reception among Herculaneum residents. For the hundreds of employees that are facing unemployment and the many more that depend on the smelter, Doe Run’s closure is an end of an era. To the others that have long called for the facility’s closure, it could not have come soon enough. For years, some residents have claimed a fine dust permeated the town as a result of the smelter’s operation.

“This was all over,” said resident Jack Warden. “It covered the side-walking areas. Kids would ride their bicycle down the street and they’d see that dust, they’d lock the brakes up, slide the back tire around on the bicycle, dust would just go flying. And that’s what they were breathing—30 percent lead.”

The Missouri Department of Natural Resources took notice and issued a cease and desist order. After criticism from federal health officials and other agencies, Doe Run cleaned up the facility and took measures to lower their production. In 2002, the smelter finally met the Clean Air Act lead standard, but it was not long before the EPA added further restrictions. In 2010, Doe Run announced that it will not be modifying the plant to suit the new restrictions and instead would be shutting down.

According to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Doe Run initially toyed with the idea of constructing a $100 million clean lead production facility in Herculaneum but later decided against it.

On a national scale, the NRA-ILA states that the plant’s closure could affect ammunition makers.

“What is clear is that after the Herculaneum smelter closes its doors in December, entirely domestic manufacture of conventional ammunition, from raw ore to finished cartridge, will be impossible,” the organization said in its press release.

It is not currently known how far-ranging the impacts of Doe Run’s closure will be.

The smelter’s closure will leave nearly 145 employees and 73 contractors out of jobs, although some personnel will be retained for closing operations. The plant’s closure will be especially hard on the local school system, which receives $500,000 a year from Doe Run.

“We have a very talented workforce and encourage businesses looking for dedicated, hardworking and skilled employees to contact us,” said Doe Run manager Gary Hughes.

Image from Kbh3rd on the Wikimedia Commons

Any views or opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not reflect those of OutdoorHub. Comments on this article reflect the sole opinions of their writers.
  • 19greg45

    Well, we can expect the price of ammunition to go through the roof, and another run on ammo. I and my fellow bullet casters had better scrounge more scrap lead while we can. Could that be why DHS bought 1.5 billion rounds of ammo recently? Did they have inside information?
    All of which plays right into the hands of the gun-hating left, as usual.

    • John Richardson

      Yes, it’s far more important for you to have cheap bullets than it is for kids to grow up without having their brains damaged by lead…

      • 19greg45

        They are in greater danger of having their brains damaged by liberal damnfoolery.

      • John Richardson

        Mentally, yes, as badly as some poor kid growing up in a family full of right wing religious hypocrites. Physically though, lead poses more of a problem, albeit in some areas the threat is more a cop’s bullet or some punk with a gun, but that’s why I carry my own.

      • Patty

        John: “family full of right wing religious hypocrites”……Really!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I think NOT….

      • John Richardson

        That’s your problem, you don’t think.

      • Al metzger

        Well, I guess you missed the part about how they DID bring it up to standards but now the EPA has raised even higher standards which are ridiculous.

      • John Richardson

        Ridiculous to people who don’t have to deal with the effects of lead poisoning or more likely think profit trumps human life. Either way you’re an idiot so…

      • Al metzger

        The only idiot here would be you. Like they did with most of manufacturing this leftist out of control government is destroying this country for NOTHING. Coal, lead, etc. has been brought up to standards that are impossible to meet and the standards they are asking for at this point have no further benefit. But you stupid leftards think you know everything so I know there is no help for your mentally incapacitated brain.

      • John Richardson

        dude, your problem isn’t lead, it’s that hat you wear, you made it out of aluminum foil, it’s supposed to be tin

      • Aquila

        Really! You can’t get your point across without name calling! That is sad and speaks volumes about your character.

  • Northerner

    just typical that our govt has to f**k with another huge business that employees lots of Americans and does great things for the community but it has more to do with guns. if they cant take our guns away they will just take away our ammo, worse then it is now!
    i would say its time for a major regime change? time to clear out congress and replace them all with fresh blood! lets start with the jackhole living at 1600 pennsylvania ave.

    • John Richardson

      30% lead dust being breathed by children and you whine a girl…

      • GuestAgain

        The 30% lead level was before the cleanup for 2002.

      • John Richardson

        is it gone? no, it’s not, is it dangerous? yes it is, shut up you sad corporate jizz pot

      • Aquila

        Once again name calling! It is hard to take you seriously when you behave as a child.

      • John Richardson

        hard to take you seriously when you ignore proven science as to the dangers of lead and decide to kiss corporate butt

  • Jim

    And where will the military get their ammo? What other material can be used to replace lead in ammo and still keep the ballistic stats unchanged.

    • John Richardson

      Here’s a hint, most lead in this country is recycled already, this plants closing will most likely have no discernible effect on ammo prices unless the manufacturers decide to create the shortage artificially, just like gun manufacturers have spent millions hyping up gun control to drive gun sales to record levels.
      I swear you people are just as much gullible sheep as liberals,

      • Jim

        With the closing of this lead mine and limited or no storage facilities around the country, the eventuality of a shortage is going to be real. Without the renewed resources to replenish lead for hundreds of industries in electronics, automotive products and our governments never ending war with the rest of the planet, there will be only three choices. Find a reasonable substitute. Relax the E.P.A laws that forced the closing in the first place, or upgrade the mine to meet the EPA requirements through government loans or subsidies. With the small percentage of lead that is recycled compared to the amount thrown away in war, there will be rising prices and real shortages artificial or not. Who’s gullible now?

      • John Richardson

        you are, Mr. Sheep

      • Jorge

        I agree, it’s only the last plant and it will not affect the prices unless the corpos use it as an excuse to raise prices. I don’t know about anyone else, but I stopped using full lead bullets long ago, just because I have to clean my rifles and handguns more often. I also didn’t like spitting out lead shot when eating cooked birds and am glad they outlawed lead birdshot long ago as well. Lead is bad shit, we can replace it and make a healthier planet for our kids. We did the same thing with asbestos and other carcinogens and we are better for it.

      • NofDen

        “NO discernible effect”. Until you have no more bullets.

    • Jorge

      Environ, it’s a safe to the environment non-toxic metal alloy that is more accurate than lead bullets. It doesn’t clog up the riflings like lead does making the gun less accurate and a whole lot harder to clean than brass or copper jacketed ammo. This isn’t an Obama plan to take my guns and ammo away, it’s been going on for 25 year now. The plant decided under GW Bush’s EPA to stop complying and announced it’s closure over 3 years ago. Don’t expect this last smeltering plant shutdown to impact we gun owners any more than taking lead out of paint and gasoline has impacted our lives.

  • RalphMalph

    In any contact with the NRA, I have requested that they form a ‘ NRA Investments Group ‘.

    In this article I notice that the operator considered building a ‘ Compliant ‘ facility at cost of $ 100 Million …. a group such as ‘ NRA Investments ‘ could fund that construction or perhaps even purchase the facility and run it themselves.

    Of course the Newly Formed Operation would have new Hiring Standards, one of which would be ‘ No Democrats Need Apply ‘.

    • John Richardson

      Funny, you claim to support the Constitution and yet you advocate violating it.

      Here’s a hint, they didn’t build the plant because it wouldn’t be profitable, the market for lead is declining, which is also why it’s a false claim that the closure will affect lead prices or lead to significant shortages.
      Poor sheep, your masters collars are just as obvious as the democrats.

  • subyz

    If they build a $100 million 100% compliant plant, the EPA will move the goalpost again to be certain there is no acceptable level of lead production! They have done that with any number of issues the liberal loonies want annihilated! There are water quality standards so extreme, there is no instrument that will measure them! What we need to do is require that agencies may ONLY give recommendations to LEGISLATORS (elected) who must pass bills that become laws. As it is, we have UNELECTED officials making what is in effect, LAW! That is not Constitutional and should be eliminated.

  • oceannavagator .

    You’re just too paranoid people. The market for lead has been deteriorating for years. It’s no longer in paint, gasoline, pipe or solder and 90% of the lead in batteries is recycled. The company in question, Doe Run, has a state of the art plant in Peru that in addition to lead, yields gold and silver also. Doe Run’s decision to close the plant is strictly an economic one.

    • Freebyrd1968

      Because of the ever-changing environmental targets! That’s why they changed it, because they are not going to continually invest money into a plant that will never meet the moving goalposts. That’s how the progressives planed it. Regulation by judicial fiat. They don’t have to get it through congress just decree it. They’ve been doing it since the sixties at least.

      • oceannavagator .

        So the fact that lead kills or maims everything it comes in contact with shouldn’t be a factor? Isn’t that the same position that China has taken on baby formula? You make me wonder just how hunting and fishing would have fared if no environmental laws had been passed since the 60′s. I’d like to remind you how hard it is to fish in a river that is on fire and to make long shots at elk that are obscured by thick smog. Thank a progressive next time you sink a hook in a trophy.

      • JCC

        This is absolutely correct. We have been being ruled by a non-elected, faceless army of bureaucrats who have the power to literally write law complete with enforceable punishments if not adhered to. This ability to rule our lives by “regulation” instead of laws passed by our elected representatives is very close to tyranny. And our so called “representatives” seem fearful of challenging these people.

  • dave

    As the value of lead goes up, due to this shortage, you can expect the wheel weights to be stolen from your car. The same goes for your car’s battery.

  • Mary Brown

    And pure lead is not a health issue, lead oxides are the problem