About the blog: What Things Are Made Of


The United States relies on imports for dozens of commodities in everyday use. Often enough, that reliance is 100%. In this book I aim to provide awareness of the hidden geology and mineralogy behind common things, and to develop an appreciation for the global resource distribution that underpins our society. While concerns about oil import reliance are in the news every day, our needs for other minerals are comparable and are typically unknown even to technologically aware Americans.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

The price of lead

by Richard I. Gibson

from Wikipedia Commons (public domain)
It will come as no surprise: the basic driver of the price of lead is automobile sales in China. Lead's price had been stable for quite a few years at about 20 cents a pound; but in 2004 it doubled to 40¢ then to 60¢ in 2005. World economy made it volatile in '08-'09 but it peaked at about $1.50 in 2007-2008. It has remained volatile since but floating around $1.00 per pound, still driven mostly by the lead-acid battery business and by China's 25%-a-year increase in auto sales (at least from 2006-10 with a small dip for the global recession in 2009).

In the US in 2011 86% of lead went to lead-acid batteries. China produces about half the world's lead but is still a net importer. U.S. production amounts to less than 8% of world total, but the US is a net exporter. Mine production totaled about 345,000 metric tons of lead in 2011, worth about $918,000,000. The vast majority of U.S. lead production comes from Missouri and the Red Dog Mine in Alaska. Consumption of lead in the United States runs to about 1,500,000 metric tons a year, five times the mine production; the apparent shortfall is made up from recycling which accounts for 83% of U.S. lead consumption.

As a consequence of the high price of lead, a friend of mine can make a good profit by making 4-ounce lead sinkers for high-end fishing expeditions.
Historical Lead Prices - Lead Price History Chart
from InfoMine.com

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