Doe Run Company

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Doe Run lead smelter in Herculaneum, Missouri

Doe Run Resources Corporation (registered to do business as the Doe Run Company) is the largest integrated lead producer in North America and the largest primary lead producer in the western world. It owns two primary lead smelters (only one is active as of 2013, and that one will close on December 31, 2013[1][dated info]), five mills (four of which are active), several mines, the world's largest secondary lead smelter, all in southeast Missouri, USA, a polymetallic smelter at La Oroya and copper mine at Cobriza, both in Peru, and lead fabricating facilities in Arizona and Washington.[2] It is wholly owned by the Renco Group which is in turn wholly owned by family trusts established by the company's Chairman and CEO, Ira Rennert. Total primary production in 2005 was 376,200 metric tons of lead, equivalent to 11.5% of world production that year.[3] Doe Run also produced 123,800 metric tons of secondary lead and smaller tonnages of zinc and copper in concentrate.[2]

Background[edit]

Doe Run started life in 1864 as the St. Joseph Lead Company, better known as St. Joe, which started lead mining on a small scale in southeastern Missouri. Despite the isolation and hardships of those days, it prospered and in 1892 it started up its smelter in Herculaneum, where all smelting was consolidated in 1920. It was active elsewhere and eventually owned mines (now disposed of) in South America and zinc operations in New York State, USA.[4] It also built up a portfolio of gold mines and prospects, including Chile's largest gold mine, El Indio, which became St. Joe Gold. It was sold in the 1980s and is now part of Barrick Gold.

With the gradual exhaustion of the Old Lead Belt after World War II, St. Joe and others explored other areas in southeastern Missouri and found more lead/zinc deposits, including the extensive Viburnum Trend on which Doe Run's U.S. mining operations are now concentrated.

In 1981, St. Joe was acquired by the Fluor Corporation. In 1986 St. Joe and Homestake Lead formed a short lived partnership called the Doe Run Company which brought Homestake's Buick mine, mill and smelter into St. Joe. After dissolution of the partnership, St. Joe converted the Buick smelter for lead recycling, which grew to be the biggest single site facility in the world. In 1994, the Renco Group acquired St. Joe from Fluor and renamed the company the Doe Run Resources Corporation, registered to do business as the Doe Run Company.

In 1994, Doe Run acquired lead fabricating facilities, and in 1997 it more than doubled in size with the purchase of the La Oroya smelter and Cobriza copper mine in Peru. 1998 saw the acquisition of ASARCO's Missouri Lead Division and its two mines and mills.[5]

Operations in the United States[edit]

Doe Run's U.S. mines are all on the Viburnum Trend, a 64 km long mineralized shoot with an average width of 150 meters, thickness of 3 to 30 meters and average depth of 300 meters. It is a classic Mississippi Valley type lead/zinc deposit in Cambrian carbonate rocks though it contains an unusually high proportion of lead.[6][7] The principal minerals are galena (lead, PbS) and sphalerite (zinc, ZnS) with lesser amounts of chalcopyrite (copper, CuFeS2). At the end of October 2005, ore reserves were approximately 34 million proven and probable tons at average grades of 6.23% lead, 1.36% zinc and 0.26% copper.

As of end October 2006, the company had six production shafts feeding four mills with a combined capacity of 21,000 metric tons per day which produced 255,600 metric tons of lead in concentrate plus zinc and copper byproducts. This was transported by public road to the primary lead smelter at Herculaneum, 56 km (35 mi) south of St Louis. It has a capacity of 227,000 metric tons of lead annually but is limited by permit to 181,500 metric tons. 2006 production was 140,300 metric tons of primary lead. The balance of the lead concentrates plus the zinc and copper concentrates were sold to other smelters One shaft, mill and smelter (Glover) were not in operation.[2]

The recycling smelter at Boss, Missouri, handles old batteries, scrap lead and lead-bearing hazardous waste. It is permitted to produce 152,410 metric tons of lead annually and in 2005 produced only 123,800 metric tons of secondary lead due to a tight scrap market. Fabricated Products produces value-added lead products such as lead oxide, lead sheet and lead pipes at facilities in Arizona and Washington.[2] This smelter, the only lead smelter in the United States, will cease operations on December 31, 2013.[1][dated info]

Pollution at the U.S. operations[edit]

Doe Run has been cited regularly by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for infringing emission limits, contaminating roads and generally polluting the immediate vicinity of the smelter.[8] Exceeding of emission limits has resulted in the reduction of the permitted capacity of the Herculaneum smelter.[2] Road contamination has resulted in orders to clean up certain roads and to wash down vehicles before they go onto public roads.[9] The company has also been ordered by the EPA to address issues relating to elevated lead blood levels in the community and lead in community soils adjacent to the smelter. It has also spent US$10.4 million on buying up to 160 residential properties close to the smelter that are contaminated and is to clean up contaminated soils.[10] The company has paid for research developing an electro- chemical replacement, Flubor[11][12] for primary smelting of lead ore.[13]

Former Operations in Peru[edit]

See entry on La Oroya for more details

Doe Run used to own 99.97% of the La Oroya polymetallic smelter. It was established by the American Cerro de Pasco Corporation in 1922, was nationalized and became the property of Centromin in 1974 and was then privatized in 1997 when Doe Run bought it for US$247 million.[14] It consists of a copper and lead smelter and zinc refinery. These are closely integrated and have additional circuits to recover byproducts, particularly from the 'dirty concentrates' produced by a number of local mines They include gold and silver (mainly from refinery residues), antimony, arsenic trioxide, bismuth, cadmium, indium, selenium, tellurium, sulfuric acid and oleum.[15] Production in 2006 was 48,600 metric tons of copper, 120,600 metric tons of lead, 45,000 metric tons of zinc, 34 million troy ounces (1,060 metric tons) of silver and 67,000 troy ounces (2,080 kilograms) of gold.

The company also used to own the Cobriza copper mine, south of La Oroya, bought for US$7.5 million to ensure at least part of the concentrate supply to the smelter. It produced 16,244 metric tons of copper in concentrate in 2006 and had reserves of 6.5 million metric tons grading 1.2% copper.[14]

Pollution at the Peruvian operations[edit]

When Doe Run took over La Oroya, it also took over Centromin's PAMA (Programa de Adecuación y Manejo Ambiental or Environmental Remediation and Management Program), an environmental contract requiring environmental remediation measures that were to be completed over the next ten years. This was extended to twelve years, with Peruvian Government permission. Basically this program was to curb emissions of all types, gases, particulates and polluted water and clean up around the smelter and its waste dumps.

Until 1997 the smelter had been run without any concern for the environment with the result that the hills around the smelter had been reduced to a moonscape by sulfur dioxide from the smelters; the already polluted river had been made even more polluted by untreated process water; the soil in the city and surroundings had become contaminated with lead; the people in the city, especially the young, had dangerous levels of lead in their blood and many had bronchial troubles. In fact it was rated as one of the ten most polluted cities in the world by the Blacksmith Institute, a New York-based environmental group".[16]

A gradual improvement of the conditions have not yet been confirmed by any independent Institution. Doe Run has reported reductions in river pollution and lead, arsenic and cadmium emissions. Sulfur dioxide emissions will have been reduced by the recent commissioning of the lead smelter acid plant and should be under control when the acid plant for the new copper smelter starts up in October 2008, according to the company's official statement. Doe Run has been indemnified by Centromin (and guaranteed by the Peruvian Government) against any environmental liability arising out of Centromin's prior operations.[17] In May 2006 Doe Run received an extension to reduce toxic emissions and now has until 2009 to meet its targets. However, emissions are still well above limits set by the World Health Organization and the Peruvian government.

In October 2009 Doe Run still refuses to fulfill licensing requirements and orders forcing Peruvian authorities to grant another 30 months adjournment.[18]

Lead usage[edit]

Because of its toxicity, lead has lost many of its traditional markets such as paint, solder, tetraethyl lead (an additive to petrol/gasoline) and piping. On the other hand, it remains in strong demand for lead acid storage batteries which have been the dominant technology for automotive and other starting, lighting and ignition batteries as well as for motive power, telecommunication, network power, uninterruptible power systems and emergency lighting. By the early 2000s, the total demand for lead in all types of lead-acid storage batteries represented 88% of apparent U.S. lead consumption.[19]

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