Base Metal Smelting

Impacts of Metal Smelting

Impacts on Environment

Smelting is known to be a major cause of pollution in the environment. When smelting occurs, along with the metal produced, a solid waste product, called stag, is also produced [1]. This slag is emitted into the air and can be a cause of the pollution although not a major one. The majority of the pollution is caused by air emissions [1]. The smelting of sulfide ores (such as Lead (II) Sulfide) produces sulfur dioxide gas and is emitted into the atmosphere. The SO2gas reacts with the atmosphere and a sulfuric acid mist is formed which later falls as acid rain [1]. This is a MAJOR cause of a rise in acidity in lakes and soil wherein various vegetation, fish and wildlife population reside [1]. In the long run, these populations are negatively affected. An example of the negative effects of air emissions is seen through Sudbury, a city in Ontario, Canada. This city has one of the world’s largest smelting complexes and also is reputed for the high levels of pollution [1]. There has been a recorded 70,000 acid-damaged lakes, 46,000 hectares of stripped vegetation and elevated amounts of ecological damage through acid rain [1]. It is seen that smelting is a major cause of environmental pollution that causes problems in the long run.  


In addition to harming the environment, some smelting operations and smelters cause serious health risks. For example, in La Oroya, Peru, there are more than 30,000 people who are forced to endure risky environmental conditions [2].  A nearby smelter is emitting toxic waste and has been there since 1922. It has been found that more than 90% of the children carry large amounts of lead in their blood that is evidently poisonous [3]. It is possible that due to this poisoning, the children will be impaired for life [2]. It is important to realize that although smelting is essential for everyday life products, it is causing irreversible damage to human health, safety and the environment on a whole.

Link to Youtube: "Toxic Lead Smelting Operation"