Followup On Closing Of Lead Smelter Plant

BY Herschel Smith
8 months ago

We discussed the closing the last lead smelter plant in the U.S. about one month ago.

I have a number of comments concerning this closure.  First of all, the company also states that the $100 million project is “too financially risky.”  And that’s the crux of the issue.  Folks, $100 million just isn’t that much for large scale production in any industry in America.  My bet is that the company believes that it could very well spend $100 million and then continue to be denied the right to manufacture ammunition due to the fact that people writing rulings in the federal register are calling the shots.  You know what I’ve said about the federal Leviathan.  Oftentimes, their standard is a moving target.

Second, I question the degree to which the company is committed to the manufacture of ammunition components.  Power companies who have to fight the EPA on a regular basis simply do what they must.  Of course, power is regulated, but the market for ammunition won’t be going away.

Third, regardless of where you turn (and I include myself in that category), there is vast under-reporting on this.  We have all discussed it, but there is a paucity of good information.  I would like to know the degree to which this will affect the production, availability and price of ammunition in the U.S.?  But in order to know that, one would have to know such things as: (1) what percentage of lead in ammunition comes from this plant as opposed to overseas (including processing of the raw ore), (2) how much lead is used in ammunition in the U.S. civilian market every year, (3) what will the cost be of shipping the raw ore overseas for manufacture, and (4) are there any plans to construct and operate another plant?

This kind of knowledge requires real reporting, and that’s something I only sometimes have the time or resources to do.  Having said that, while this plant may not have been able to meet current EPA standards, it’s a sad day.  I suspect that the EPA hasn’t targeted this plant because of its role in the manufacture of ammunition.  Rather, the EPA targets all productive, money-making industry for onerous regulations, written inside the beltway by armies of lawyers, without regard for the practical affect of said regulations.  It’s governance by federal register, and it’s one thing that makes this so sad.

I still believe that there is under-reporting on this issue.  Emily Miller addresses the issue (via Glenn), concluding that it will have minimal impact.  Becket Adams with The Blaze also recently wrote on this issue, similarly concluding that:

“More than 80 percent of all lead produced in the U.S. is used in either motive batteries to start vehicles, or in stationary batteries for backup power,” the company states on its website. “In the U.S., the recycle rate of these batteries is approximately 98 percent, making lead-based batteries the most highly recycled consumer product. These batteries are recycled at secondary lead smelters. We own such a smelter in southern Missouri.”

Adams also cites Bob Owens who isn’t concerned.  So be it.  I am not “up in arms” as Emily Miller warned.  But I still think that there is under-reporting on this issue, and the questions I asked earlier in large measure still haven’t been addressed.

The issue for me isn’t what is going to happen in the short term and the best of circumstances while there are plenty of automobile batteries that contain lead, or while the flow of lead from foreign countries is still high because shipping lanes are open and countries want to do business with us.

Unlike the ammunition rush of a year ago, I can now find 5.56 mm cartridges for 50 cents per round.  What happens if our armed forces is sent on another adventure and signs another huge contract for ammunition?  The question for me is what happens in the long term in situations of national duress or conditions in a potential future market a decade from now.  I want a scholarly paper on this.  I want to see good, in-depth reporting, and I’m still waiting.

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  • RK

    Closing the smelter will have consequences eventually. The destruction of base industrial capacities always do. The shortages since 911 to include the current one trace all the way back to decisions made during the Clinton years to tear down all of the military plants except for Lake City. After all, history had ended and only enough capacity was needed for training a much smaller military, right? 911 happens and the wild ride began because those plants were the war reserve. Of course they were idle and unneeded during peace time!

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  • smmtheory

    I agree with RK on that. The consequences will arrive eventually. They may not be visible now, they may not be visible tomorrow. Heck, they may not even be visible a month from now. But rest assured, the EPA (and by extension the administration) is paying attention to the overall reaction as well. This just one more increment in the whole ball of incrementalism being played out by the tyrants.

  • Bill C

    A similar discussion occurred on another website. The general conclusion was that since most lead bullets are made from recycled lead via secondary smelters, the closing of the last primary smelter would have little to no effect on lead ammo supplies. I have to wonder when the EPA will get around to stricter limits on secondary smelting thus raising the costs of lead ammo and reducing its availability.


You are currently reading "Followup On Closing Of Lead Smelter Plant", entry #11618 on The Captain's Journal.

This article is filed under the category(s) Ammunition and was published December 3rd, 2013 by Herschel Smith.

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