NEW YORK Doe Run Co., whose Herculaneum, Mo., smelter is set to cease operations at the end of December, said it will continue to meet the demands of its primary lead customers in the final weeks of 2013.
The Herculaneum facility will receive its final shipment of lead concentrates from Doe Runs mines in the next several days, the St. Louis-based company said.
Following the closure of the smelter, 75 employees will be retained in 2014 to assist with continued refining and alloying, as well as maintenance of the Herculaneum site.
Doe Run reached a $65-million settlement with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the state of Missouri in 2010, which included an agreement to discontinue its smelting operations in Herculaneum by the end of 2013 (amm.com, Oct. 8, 2010).
The smelter, which has been operating for 120 years, is the last primary lead metal smelter in the United States. The company estimates that it has supplied 8 to 10 percent of U.S. demand for lead through its Herculaneum smelter.
"Although we will continue to mine and mill lead, zinc and copper from our underground mines, the ability to produce primary lead metal and their alloys domestically will vanish," Doe Run metals division general manager Gary Hughes said.
The company will continue to process secondary lead batteries at its recycling center in southern Missouri, which recycles more than 13 million junk batteries per year.
"Nearly every lead-acid battery produced in the U.S. is using lead metal that at some point originated with our mines and smelters," Doe Run chief operating officer Aaron Miller said. "Today, much of the demand for lead and lead alloys can be met through recycling. However, specialty applications, as well as material for market growth, will have to come from foreign sources in the future. Without an adequate supply of imported lead, demand in the U.S. will soon outpace availability of lead metal."
The company looked to build another smelter at the Herculaneum site that would meet current and future U.S. ambient air standards, but abandoned the plans in 2012.
"We hoped to be building such a plant by now; however, constructing a full-scale plant, given other regulatory compliance spending requirements, puts our company at financial risk. We may pursue a smaller-scale plant if conditions become more favorable," Hughes said.