[disclaimer] The headline could read: “Last U.S. Lead Smelter Closes Due to Obama and EPA Regulations.” Firearm enthusiasts suddenly understood the U.S. Army’s new found obsession with lead-free ammunition and blogs published everywhere proselytizing the link between the shutdown and gun control.
Was there a conspiracy? Did the anti Second Amendment crowd use a backdoor to accomplish what they could not do in front of the public? I do not believe the government or the antis are savvy enough to have come up that as a sole purpose for unleashing the EPA, but they are kooky enough to use it as an added excuse.
There isn’t much we can do about it now. A 120-year-old company is going the way of the dinosaur and as for U.S. production; it was the last of its kind. Too bad spotty owl enthusiasts and protectors of polar bears could not be a little more sympathetic when it comes to the extinction of American business.
Either way, it isn’t going to bring ammo prices down any.
The facility being shut down is Doe Run. The plant worked with ore fresh out of the earth, otherwise known as primary lead. There are still smelters in the U.S. working with recycled lead, but most have moved to Mexico. The majority of recycled lead is from old car batteries, so be sure to compliment any anti-gunners you come across and tell them how much you admire their electric or hybrid car. You might even add something about how you would like to have it one day… So, the question comes down to a couple of key elements. The first will be the availability of lead—or lack of it—and how it will affect ammunition manufacturers. That really should not change much. Cars have lead batteries and recycling will continue. Car batteries are also a primary source of lead for recyclers and likely the genus of what you have been shooting for years.
Second, ore will likely go south of the border for processing than be repatriated to the U.S. This should make lead just as available, but once again result in the loss of U.S. jobs. The big question for shooters will not be availability as much as it will be cost. The materials will have to do a lot more traveling and that adds cost. Doe Run was centrally located in Missouri. A trip to Mexico and back burns a lot more diesel fuel. However, Mexico has fewer regulations and lower labor costs, which could negate or lower costs. I’ll leave the answer to that question to economists and commodities experts.
For now it is a wait and see game. Operations dependent on primary lead for their products will have to scramble for a new source. Others using recycled lead, (ammo manufacturers) will not be affected as much. The biggest change will be the number of customers using primary lead that will switch to recycled lead. If that happens, demand will increase and material prices to manufacturers will be passed along to us, the consumer.
What is your take on the shutdown? Will it affect ammunition prices, fishing supplies or another industry? Tell us your thoughts in the comment section. [dave]