The Doe Run Company reported on March 22 that it and Engitec, its Italy-based technology partner, have developed proprietary new technology that uses a wet chemical process to selectively dissolve lead concentrates, then extracts lead from the solution using an electric current. The “electrowinning” process is similar to the technology used to extract zinc from concentrates, Doe Run said, but has never been used in primary lead production.

Doe Run is currently running a demonstration plant for the process in southeast Missouri, completing a detailed feasibility study on the technology, and evaluating possible locations for a commercial-scale plant. To take the project from a demonstration plant to a commercial-scale operation is expected to require investments of more than $150 million. Doe Run is pursuing funding and loan guarantees to help bring the technology to fruition.

“This new proprietary technology is a game changer for our industry,” Doe Run President and CEO Bruce Neil, said. “This new technology delivers on shared goals for cleaner communities, energy independence, and lead products that will power our world into the future. We’ve been looking for a breakthrough technology for decades and have invested more than 200,000 man hours to get us this far. By year’s end, we will have invested more than $30 million in research and development. We still have a way to go, but we’re convinced this technology has tremendous potential to produce a strategic metal in a manner that is environmentally sound in every respect.”