In December, the final primary lead smelter in the United States will close. The lead smelter, located in Herculaneum, Missouri, and owned and operated by the Doe Run Company, has existed in the same location since 1892.
The Herculaneum smelter is currently the only smelter in the United States which can produce lead bullion from raw lead ore that is mined nearby in Missouri’s extensive lead deposits, giving the smelter its “primary” designation.
The factory has decided that they simply can’t afford to install the pollution controls mandated by the EPA. Score another victory in war on Capitalism. Oh but don’t blame the EPA…
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.
Business decision indeed, the modifications required would’ve cost the company $100 million. And had they installed all that, next year the EPA would hand down even tougher regulations until the company couldn’t compete with foreign producers.
The EPA has methodically driven company after company out of business under the guise of pollution. Once upon a time the US was a major producer of ‘rare earth’ elements so critical to the high tech industry until one by one the EPA harassed those refiners out of business.
Now the US is forced to buy ‘rare earths’ from foreign suppliers like Africa and China.
The problem with lead isn’t it’s cost to produce or rarity, but it’s weight. A pound of lead might only cost a few cents, but shipping it any distance will add dollars to it’s price. That’s why so many ammo manufacturers located close to this smelter. The copper and brass could be shipped cheaply, but not the lead.
How much will lead cost if it has to be shipped all the way from China or India because it can’t be refined here in the US anymore?
Sure, there are still secondary smelters who salvage lead from car batteries and even pay shooting ranges to sift through the dirt to recover spent bullets. But demand for lead will soon outstrip what can be recycled.
Bullets will either be made of some other heavy metal like bismuth or tungsten which are more expensive than lead or the lead itself will cost and arm and a leg.
The irony here is that the EPA hasn’t reduced air pollution one bit. All they’ve done is shift it to some other country. But the last time I checked, we breath the same air as the Chinese or the Germans.
So they’ve accomplished nothing except to put more people out of work and render America hostage to whatever price some foreign country wants to charge us for something we used to make here.