Booming Lead Industry

In present day world Lead is one of the most used commodities. Occurring naturally in the environment, it is processed in around 60 countries. The increasing usage of lead has risen from 4 million tons per year and this, nearly 2 million tons per year is produced in Asia. Recycling or can be called as secondary production is widely practiced in today’s world and it accounts to nearly 50 percent of usage worldwide.

Remelted Lead For Recycling

Remelted Lead

The key features of lead such its malleability, electrical conductivity, lubricity, flexibility makes it useful in the lead industry and last but not the least it is the most abundant metal in the world which makes its usage more in the industrial world in comparison to other metals. India stands at 6th place in world mine production of lead in concentrate with 77,500 metric tons of production of lead. The total global consumption of lead in 2003 was estimated to be 15.1 billion pounds.

Lead ingots, Pure Lead

Lead Ingots

APPLICATIONS OF LEAD

  • Automobile Industry  : One of the most common uses of lead is in the automobile industry in the manufacture of lead acid storage batteries which is a vital part in automobile and communication industry.
  • Bullets and Shots :  Another common use of lead is in bullets and shots. There are calls to remove lead from bullets and shot, especially for hunting, but it has been difficult to find a suitable material.
  • Electronics : Lead is used as solder for electronics, but for safety reasons attempts are being made to replace lead solder with bismuth. It is also used in high voltage power lines.
  • Construction Purposes : It is commonly used in construction for roofing materials. It can also be used to create statues and sculptures.
  • Used as Radiation shield : Lead is used as a radiation shield in many different applications. For example, aprons containing lead are used to shield certain parts of patients during x-rays. Molten lead is even used to cool certain types of nuclear reactors.
  • Marine Uses : Lead is used to add weight to the keel of sailboats and to diver’s belts. Lead is also the most common material used in fishing sinkers.

There can be no intelligent control of the lead danger in industry unless it is based on the principle of keeping the air clear from dust and fumes.

The supply of lead comes mainly from mine production but recycling of lead scrap amounts a large production share in metal. 90 percent of lead scrap comes from battery industry. A sudden growth in the automobile sector and boom in information technology has resulted in continuous increasing demand for batteries which mainly uses lead as its core product. Approx. 3 million tons of lead is recycled annually in which large amount of scrap comes from waste batteries.

Lead Scrap

Lead Scrap

The supply of lead is majorly based on mine production and recycling which accounts to large supply of lead. Lead is found all over the world but the largest mining countries are Australia, China and the United States, which between them account for more than 50 percent of primary production. Around 3 million tons of lead is produced from secondary sources each year, by recycling scarp lead products.

Globally, secondary lead production is rising in countries like Australia, European Union, US and Japan but our country lacks technology and policy to promote secondary lead production which effects in the domestic supply and imbalance in the export and import. Roughly half of lead comes from the recycled lead. Demand for lead acid batteries for automotive, industrial and consumer purposes accounts for about 70 percent of world’s demand for lead. While lead is constantly meeting this market challenge, it is also proving its sustainable development credentials. Few materials are so efficiently utilized. Lead is used by all industrialized nations. The USA is by far the biggest consumer, with some countries in Asia and Europe. The US is the largest producer of primary lead. Most of the lead comes from secondary sources and most secondary lead is used in batteries. India’s lead market was estimated 1.5 lakh tons by 2004 which was surged to 3.5 lakh tons by 2007 because of wide growth in industrial consumption mainly from battery sector.

LEAD Occurrence and Distribution

Lead is mentioned often in early biblical accounts. The Babylonians used the metal asLead Metal plates on which to record inscriptions. The Romans used it for tablets, water pipes, coins, and even cooking utensils; indeed, as a result of the last use, lead poisoning was recognized in the time of Augustus Caesar. The compound known as white lead was apparently prepared as a decorative pigment at least as early as 200 bc. Modern developments date to the exploitation in the late 1700s of deposits in the Missouri-Kansas-Oklahoma area in the United States.

On a weight basis, lead has nearly the same abundance in the Earth’s crust as tin. Cosmically, there are 0.47 lead atoms per 106 silicon atoms.

The cosmic abundance is comparable with those of cesium, praseodymium, hafnium, and tungsten, each of which is regarded as a reasonably scarce element. Although lead is not abundant, natural concentration processes have resulted in substantial deposits of commercial significance, particularly in the United States, but also in Canada, Australia, Spain, Germany, Africa, and South America. Significant deposits are found in the United States in the western states and the Mississippi Valley. Rarely found free in nature, lead is present in several minerals; but all are of minor significance except the sulfide, PbS (galena, or lead glance), which is the major source of lead production throughout the world. Lead is also found in anglesite (PbSO4) and cerussite (PbCO3). Lead may be extracted by roasting the ore and then smelting it in a blast furnace or by direct smelting without roasting.

Additional refining removes impurities present in the lead bullion produced by either process. Almost half of all refined lead is recovered from recycled scrap.