Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Doe Run Kills Smelter Plan; Meanwhile, the Existing Plant Will Close as Scheduled Next Year; 278 Workers Will Be Left without Jobs

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Doe Run Kills Smelter Plan; Meanwhile, the Existing Plant Will Close as Scheduled Next Year; 278 Workers Will Be Left without Jobs

Article excerpt

HERCULANEUM - The Doe Run Co. said Friday it has dropped plans to build a new lead processing facility in Herculaneum, citing the $100 million project as too financially risky.

The decision doesn't affect the company's plans to shut the existing lead smelter in Jefferson County, an industrial facility frequently cited as one of the state's largest polluters. That plant, which has operated for more than a century and is the lone remaining lead smelter in the United States, will cease operations at the end of next year.

Friday's announcement means Herculaneum will soon lose an industry that defines it. The Doe Run smelter's 278 workers, about a quarter of whom live in Herculaneum and neighboring communities, will be left without jobs. The city and school district will also lose a significant part of their tax base.

"We always thought it would always have a presence," said Bill Haggard, the city's mayor and fire chief as well as president of the Herculaneum Historical Society. "But apparently not."

Other local officials also said they never thought they'd see Doe Run's days in Herculaneum come to a close. They were upbeat about plans for the new plant announced in the spring of 2010 that would use a new, cleaner lead production technology.

Company executives said at the time that the new process was safer and more efficient and would eliminate 99 percent of air, land and water pollution that came with the existing smelter.

The company on Friday said it's still confident the technology works, and may use it for "other mineral resources." But executives still chose to pull the plug on Herculaneum.

"We concluded that building a plant here would generate an unacceptable financial risk to the company," Chief Operating Officer Jerry Pyatt said in a statement.

It was just two weeks ago that Doe Run announced Pyatt will take over as chief executive of the company on Aug. 1. Company spokeswoman Tammy Stankey said the transition has been in the works for months and is unrelated to Friday's announcement.

Doe Run executives declined to be interviewed. Stankey said the company will focus on other aspects of its business, including expanding exploration activities. …

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