Doe Run: no new plant to replace Herculaneum lead smelter
Doe Run announced today that it will not build a new lead processing plant in Herculaneum.
In 2010, the largest lead producer in North America announced it would close its existing lead smelter in Herculaneum by the end of 2013.
The company had proposed to build a new facility there that would use new technology to reduce emissions of air pollutants including lead and sulfur dioxide.
But now Doe Run says that won’t happen.
The proposed plant was part of a plan by the development group Riverview Commerce Park LLC to purchase 500 acres in Jefferson County including the Doe Run facility.
Doe Run says increasingly strict federal air quality standards have driven the closure of the existing Herculaneum smelter. Company officials say it would not be economically viable to upgrade the plant.
Federal and state agencies have charged Doe Run with polluting the region’s air, water, and soil. In 2010, the company agreed to pay $65 million to address environmental violations at 10 of its lead mining, milling, and smelting facilities in Southeast Missouri.
Doe Run has also been the subject of a number of lawsuits related to lead poisoning of Herculaneum residents.
The Herculaneum facility is the only primary lead smelter in the United States. Doe Run has operated there since 1892. The plant currently employs 278 people.
Doe Run declined St. Louis Public Radio’s request for an interview, so we were unable to confirm whether those employees would lose their jobs.
The company provided this statement from Jerry Pyatt, the company’s vice president and chief operating officer:
“Doe Run has decided not to build its proposed, lead electrowinning plant to process its Missouri mineral resources. We concluded that building a plant here would generate an unacceptable financial risk to the company.”
“We will continue to explore the opportunity to use this technology with other mineral resources, and believe the application of this technology in different circumstances will provide a positive business model.”
“We recognize this may be disappointing news for many. However, we see a bright future for Doe Run. We continue to be a strong business, and we are actively expanding our exploration in North America. We will work with our employees to help them plan for their transition as our primary lead smelter in Herculaneum Missouri closes at the end of 2013. Doe Run will also continue to support the repurposing of the Herculaneum site for future business and employment opportunities.”