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Industrial Applications: Primary and Secondary Smelting Operations


Lead processing and smelting plants work with both primary and secondary lead. Primary lead is mined, separated from ore, and refined into various products, whereas secondary lead is recovered from used objects, such as used lead-acid batteries, for reuse in other products.

Smelting is a key process in lead product production, and involves heating lead ore or recovered lead with chemical reducing agents. Both primary and secondary smelting processes can be responsible for releasing large amounts of lead contamination into the surrounding environment.

The Primary Smelting Process

The primary smelting process involves separating lead from ore using heat and reducing or purifying agents such as coke and charcoal. When lead ore is mine, it must undergo several different processes in order to be turned into usable or metallurgical lead material:
  1. Sintering - involves removing sulfur from the lead ore using a hot air combustion process.
  2. Smelting - the lead is heated at extremely high temperatures in order to isolate the pure lead from other metals and materials in the ore
  3. Refining – any remaining metals or other leftover materials are removed
Lead dust and smoke can be released during all of these processes, and slag contaminated with lead particles may be left over after smelting.

The Secondary Smelting Process

Secondary smelting of lead is similar to primary smelting, but does not require the initial sintering process. Once lead is recovered from used materials, it is placed into a furnace where it is heated with coke or charcoal in order to isolate the lead from other compounds.

Like primary lead smelting, the processing of secondary lead can also produce lead dust and toxic slag. If smelting plants and equipment are not properly constructed to minimize the release of pollutants, lead toxins can often enter the surrounding environment and contaminate soil, water, and food.

Environmental Risks

The mining process for extracting primary lead ore can create large piles of waste that contains lead toxins. If these piles are left out in the open, lead dust can be blown into surrounding areas, and lead can also leach into the ground and contaminate water systems.

The extraction and smelting of lead can cause a large amount of toxic pollution, and emissions from lead smelting are a big contributor to global lead contamination.  Lead smelting can also pollute the environment with large amounts of particulate matter, toxic effluents, and other various solid wastes.

To learn more about Primary and Secondary Smelting Operation Sites, defined by the EPA - Click Here

To get information on how EnviroBlend can help in remediating these sites- Click Here
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