I’ve seen a lot of concern expressed because the last lead smelter in the US was closed because of the pressure from EPA regulations.
It’s true that this smelter in Missouri was the last PRIMATY lead smelter in the US. Primary means a smelter that processes lead from a mine rich in lead ore, as this smelter was processing ore from the traditionally rich lead mines of Missouri, which have been a significant source of lead in the US since not long after the Louisiana Purchase.
However, today’s bullet manufacturers report that they buy their lead almost exclusively from SECONDARY lead smelters in the US. There are a number of these secondary smelters that produce lead by recycling products which use lead, mostly automotive batteries.
However again, these secondary lead smelters are also coming under increased EPA regulatory pressure, including one in southern California which is curtailing or shutting down operations at least temporarily to address cleanup issues.
Will these secondary smelters survive and be able to continue meeting the demands of bullet manufacturers? Maybe; maybe not. Meanwhile, more lead is now being imported from Mexico, Canada, and other places (they say it’s now a global economic world and a global marketplace).
Bottom line: Closure of the last primary lead smelter in the US should not curtail bullet production, but continued pressure on secondary smelters could very well have that effect. And, you can bet that there are those who would love to use government power to end component suppliers for ammunition altogether. Add to that the ongoing effort to use environmental concerns to totally prohibit use of lead in all ammunition, as has been done with lead shot in places like California.
So, there is reason to be concerned about the overall outlook for lead for ammunition, but there is not reason to panic only because the last primary lead smelter in the US has closed.
Gary Marbut, President
Montana Shooting Sports Association
Author, Gun Laws of Montana