Doe Run has unveiled environmentally friendly technology for producing lead that could replace conventional smelting operations.

The process replaces traditional, high-temperature lead smelting with a wet chemical process that is safer, cleaner and more efficient, the company says.

The wet chemical process selectively dissolves lead concentrates into a solution and then extracts lead using an electric current.

As a self-contained process, the activating solution is recycled back into the process indefinitely.

The process has a recycling rate of more than 97%.

Doe Run is currently running a demonstration plant in south-east Missouri, US, completing a detailed feasibility study on the new technology and evaluating possible locations for a commercial-scale plant.

The company requires a $150m investment to develop a commercial-scale operation.

Doe Run worked with Engitec on the technology, which is expected to increase the lifespan of lead mines by providing a higher rate of metal recovery.