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Last Primary Lead Smelter in U.S. to Close
By Harold Hutchison

The last domestic primary lead smelter is closing by the end of the year, putting the availability of ammunition into question. The Doe Run company announced the closure of its facility in Herculaneum, Missouri last month due to EPA regulations.

According to a NRA-ILA press release, “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 lead bullion produced in Herculaneum is then sold to lead product producers, including ammunition manufactures for use in conventional ammunition components such as projectiles, projectile cores, and primers.”

“Whatever the EPA's motivation when creating the new lead air quality standard, increasingly restrictive regulation of lead is likely to affect the production and cost of traditional ammunition. Just this month, California Governor Jerry Brown signed into law a bill that will ban lead ammunition for all hunting in California,” the NRA-ILA added.

While some smelters that recycle lead still exist, the NRA-ILA release noted, “At this time, it's unclear if Doe Run or another company will open a new lead smelter in the United States that can meet the more stringent lead air quality standards by using more modern smelting methods. 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.”