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Increased energy costs during the 1970s raised the cost of smelting and refining copper. New environmental regulations also increased operating costs, particularly at the smelting stage. Over the decade from 1975 to 1985 these cost increases led to the decline of copper capacity in older plants, but this was partially offset by the introduction of solvent extraction/electrowinning (SX/EW) technology as an alternative to the smelting process (see Figure 2-2) for suitable ores. This technology proved invaluable to the competitiveness of domestic copper producers.

Domestic producers, with less byproduct production, are less sensitive to demand variations in other metals. At times this may work to the competitive advantage of the domestic industry, while at other times it may hurt profitability. The lead industry must comply with environmental and safety standards, both in the mining and processing of ore and in the disposal of tailings and waste products. Health and environmental regulations have been a burden to the lead industry, although less than to the copper industry, which required major investments in new smelters.

S. copper producers were profitable again. S. lead industry came back almost as strongly as copper. During 1987 and 1988 lead mine and metal production both increased, reversing the trend of the previous years, although production remained below the levels of 1979. The average world lead price rose 62 percent between April Figure 1-6 Copper production costs—United States versus rest of Western world. About this PDF file: This new digital representation of the original work has been recomposed from XML files created from the original paper book, not from the original typesetting files.

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Competitiveness of the U.S. Minerals and Metals Industry by National Research Council Staff

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