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Bureau of Mines / Minerals yearbook: Metals and minerals 1978-79
Year 1978-79, Volume 1 (1978-1979)

Rathjen, John A.; Rowland, T. John
Lead,   pp. 507-538 PDF (2.9 MB)


Page 507

  507Lead 
By John A. Rathjen1 and T. John Rowland2 
 U.S. mine output of recoverable lead dropped to 530,000 tons in 1978 and
to 526,000 tons in 1979. Primary refinery output of lead from domestic and
foreign raw materials, including lead in antimonial lead, increased to 568,000
tons in 1978 and 578,000 tons in 1979. Secondary smelter production increased
in 1978 and 1979. 
 U.S. stocks of refined and antimonial lead at primary plants and consumer
stocks of soft lead, and lead in antimonial lead rose sharply in 1979. 
 In the 1978-79 period, the U.S. producer price for lead ranged from a low
of 31 cents per pound in the second quarter of 1978 to a record high of 61
cents per pound in October 1979, then declined to 55 cents at the close of
the year. The lead price on the London Metal Exchange (LME) experienced a
similar trend, beginning 1978 at 30.0 cents per pound and rising to a high
of 63 cents in June 1979, then declining to 53 cents per pound at yearend.
 World mine production of lead in concentrates increased for the third consecutive
year in 1979. Total metal production from world smelters in 1979 increased
to 5.5 million metric tons, continuing a growth trend which began in 1977.
Total world consumption of refined primary and secondary metal increased
to 5.3 million tons in 1978 and continued upward in 1979 to a total of 5.7
million tons. Total world stocks excluding those in centrally planned economy
countries, declined in 1978 and 1979 from the levels established in the preceding
years. 
 Legislation and Government Programs.—The General Services Administration
retained its stockpile goal of 785,000 tons for lead in 1978 and 1979. 
 On October 5, 1978, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued final
rules governing the National Air Quality Standard for lead. The standard
restricts lead in 
air to 1.5 micrograms per cubic meter averaged over a 90-day period. The
full economic impact of this ruling was not quanified; however, an EPA economist
indicated that the ruling could virtually wipe out the secondary lead sector
if the standard were fully implemented. 
 On November 14, 1978, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration
(OSHA) issued final standards regulating occupational exposure to lead. The
rules call for a maximum exposure of 50 micrograms of lead per cubic meter
of air based on an 8hour time-weighted average at the workplace. Various
segments of the industry will be given different compliance schedules, which
range from 1 to 10 years, to fully meet the standards. Two suits in opposition
to the standards were filed with the U.S. Circuit Court. In one, the Lead
Industries Association (LIA) claimed that the standard was so costly as to
be prohibitive. The United Steelworkers of America (USW) claimed that the
standard was not a sufficient safeguard, and that a 40-microgram limit should
have been established. 
 The twenty-third and twenty-fourth sessions of the International Lead and
Zinc Study Group (ILZSG) were held in Geneva, Switzerland, November 23-30,
1978, and October 4-11, 1979, respectively. It was projected that both mine
and smelter production would increase marginally in 1979, and that surplus
would be absorbed by demand from the central economy countries. Little growth
was foreseen in market economy lead metal consumption. 
 The Department of Energy (DOE) sponsored the third Electric and Hybrid Vehicle
(EHV) Program in Arlington, Va., on June 25-27, 1979. The meeting addressed
all phases of the EHV program with considerable emphasis on the lead-acid
storage battory, which is currently the accepted power supply for electric
vehicles. 


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