Doe Run VP urges US to end regulations that 'promote raw material exports' and invest in innovation

by John Shepherd
Safety first: Doe Run's truck washing procedures remove traces of lead that could otherwise be tracked off-site. Photo: Doe Run
A top executive at US lead battery recycling and minerals firm, The Doe Run Company, has called for increased domestic investment in critical and base minerals and an overhaul of US regulatory practices to boost industrial innovation.

John Uhrie, VP of exploration, research and technical development, said: "If the US is to regain its position as a leader in mineral extraction, processing and manufacturing, we need a shift in how regulators approach permitting, research and development.”

Uhrie told a critical minerals supply workshop at the Missouri University of Science & Technology the current regulatory approach was "stymieing domestic growth and promoting the export of raw materials – only to have them processed under less stringent environmental standards elsewhere”.

'Lost economic value'

On lead concentrates, Uhrie said they are produced in Missouri, where Doe Run is based and exported because the US "no longer has domestic access to primary lead processing”.

"The US imports about one-third of domestic demand for lead in order to produce lead batteries and other products, losing the economic value of producing the metal domestically. Lead is not alone in this scenario. There are also no domestic primary smelters for zinc or nickel.”

Uhrie said Doe Run’s novel lead metal processing technologies, under development for both primary and secondary metal production, "could be commercialised under the right conditions”.

'Reduce uncertainty'

"Our hydromet technologies are not only capable of lead metal production with significant elimination of air emissions, but also can produce antimony and tin from recycled batteries and recover cobalt and nickel from complex concentrates,” he said. 

"But we need better cooperation among the industry and regulators to reduce the unpredictability and uncertainty that hinders investment in these innovations.”

Uhrie urged the US to invest in collegiate mining and metallurgy programmes to train the next-generation mining workforce and establishing a "clear, consistent and transparent path” for permits for new mines and processing facilities, which he said takes up to 10 years – compared to just two years in Australia and Canada.

Doe Run’s six mines in Missouri’s Viburnum Trend mining belt produce 5 five million tons of ore a year, including lead, copper and zinc concentrates. The company recycles about 8.5 million lead batteries each year, returning the metal to use in new batteries.

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