As technology advances and developing countries evolve, our global economy becomes even more closely connected. That’s why lead, a natural resource in abundance in Missouri, plays a vital role in meeting growing market demands around the world. As stewards of this valued resource, Doe Run continues to adjust its business strategy to meet the needs of its U.S. and international customers.
“Over the past several years, our business model has evolved in order to best serve our customers,” said Jerry Pyatt, Doe Run president and CEO. “In 2014, we reorganized our business structure by merging two divisions to create a single Metals Division. These efforts enable us to meet metals customers’ needs efficiently through a single business center. The Metals Division, combined with our mining and fabrication divisions, enable us to continue to generate more than $1 billion annually to Missouri’s economy, and sustain our part of the vital Missouri mining industry well into the future.”
Meeting Lead Metal Demands
Years before the closure of its primary smelting operations at the end of 2013, Doe Run proactively identified opportunities to adapt its lead metal business to continue providing its unique services to customers.
“In 2014, we combined our alloying, refining, casting and strip production in Herculaneum, with the secondary smelting and recycling operations at our Resource Recycling facility,” said Gary Hughes, general manager, Doe Run Metals Division. “Together, this new Metals Division meets the lead metal production, refining and alloying needs of our customers.”
In total, the U.S. imported more than 460,000 metric tonnes of primary lead in 2014, an increase of approximately 40 percent over 2013.
“Doe Run understands the specific requirements of our customers and meets those needs through secondary production and refining,” said Lou Magdits, director of raw materials, Metals Division. “We continue to serve the majority of our customers with secondary or high-purity lead.”
As a result of Herculaneum smelter’s closure, the U.S. market now imports approximately 125,000 more metric tonnes of lead to replace the lead previously produced at the Herculaneum smelter. In total, the U.S. imported more than 460,000 metric tonnes of lead in 2014, an increase of approximately 40 percent over 2013.
“In preparation to continue serving the U.S. market, our Resource Recycling facility also has developed an innovative technique to deliver recycled lead at the higher purity level some customers require,” said Magdits.
Through the new Metals Division, Doe Run continues to supply lead alloys and secondary lead used to manufacture lead-acid batteries for vehicles, backup power, cell towers, data centers and heavy machinery, like the baggage handling equipment used in airports.
“Transportation in developing countries is evolving from electric bicycles and tricycles to conventional and hybrid cars. This will continue to drive the demand for lead-acid batteries to power vehicles,” said Magdits. “Manufacturers rely on recycled secondary lead for batteries, so our Resource Recycling facility plays an important role in returning recycled lead metal to use in the battery market. In fact, lead-acid batteries are recycled at a rate of 99 percent, and our facility has the capacity to recycle more than 13.5 million lead-acid batteries annually.”
“While metal production and recycling are important parts of our operations, mining has been the foundation of our business for 150 years,” said Steve Batts, general manager, Southeast Missouri Mining and Milling Division (SEMO). “We operate the second-largest lead mining district in the world, and the lead concentrates we extract near Viburnum, Missouri, are some of the most pure concentrates available.”
On average, lead concentrates contain approximately 45 to 50 percent lead. Doe Run’s lead concentrates far surpass the industry average, containing more than 75 percent lead. Prior to January 2014, a majority of Doe Run’s lead concentrates were transported to Herculaneum to be smelted into primary lead metal. In 2014, Doe Run expanded its global concentrate sales and now exports all concentrates for processing overseas, including copper and zinc concentrates.
“Over the course of the last four years, we have identified and visited with smelting operations throughout the world to establish direct relationships,” said John Likarish, Doe Run marketing manager.
“In order to supply high-quality lead concentrates to the global market well into the future, Doe Run explores for new ore bodies in the Viburnum Trend, as well as other sites in Missouri,” said Ross Conner, vice president – exploration at Doe Run. “Each year we use exploration to identify mineral reserves that will replace the ore we mine and sustain our mining business.”
“Successful companies continuously evolve their operations,” said Pyatt. “For more than 150 years, our company and its predecessors have thrived by looking toward and innovating for the future. We’ve sustained our company, which allows us to support our local economy and meet the growing demand for lead.”
The Uses of Lead
Lead has many applications, including underwater cabling for petroleum and communications industries; use in more than 1 billion vehicles worldwide; protection from radiation in both medical and military applications; backup power for telecommunications; roof flashing; ammunition; and for radiation detection applications. Fabricated Products Inc., a wholly owned Doe Run subsidiary, manufactures many lead materials used in these applications.
Photo courtesy of Calder Group