A clear and focused global programme led by the International Lead Association (ILA) will help create the conditions needed for lead producing companies to thrive in the future, according to ILA Managing Director Andy Bush.
Delivering his message at the 19th International Lead Conference (Pb2015), in Lisbon, more than 150 delegates from 30 different countries also heard from a range of speakers on key topics for the industry ranging from Market Prospects and Sustainability to the Regulatory Environment and Communications.
Pb2015 yet again delivered on its promise to provide an authoritative and comprehensive overview of issues affecting the global lead industry and cemented this event as the premier lead conference run by the International Lead Association- the industry’s only global trade association.
Dr Bush said: “ILA is the organisation that’s best placed to provide the leadership needed to bring the entire industry together under one single, clear and focused global program of action that will help deliver the future we want for our industry.”
The new story for lead is that of an essential, sustainable and innovative material and Dr Bush identified three critical conditions to increase opportunities for lead producers to thrive:
He explained how ILA together with the Advanced Lead Acid Battery Consortium are working together to help create these conditions.
Dr Bush’s comments were backed up by ILA Chairman, Florian von Steinkeller, of Glencore, who urged the lead industry to support ILA’s new strategic direction. “The challenges the industry faces are too big for one company, so we need a strong, focused ILA that is supported by a broader base of lead producers,” he said.
In his keynote address Ray Kubis, President and Managing Director of Eco-Bat Technologies Ltd, issued a call to action for the industry. Mr Kubis believed that there were plenty of opportunities for lead batteries, but that its historical market dominance was being seriously challenged by diverse lithium-based solutions across multiple applications.
He highlighted five areas where he felt the industry needs to drive accelerated improvement. Three related to improving lead-based battery performance and the fourth was continued improvement in stewardship. Finally he highlighted the need to enhance communications on the positive recycling and sustainability story around lead batteries, targeting the key people and groups that shape the industry.
“Lead batteries today really are more sustainable and a lot safer than lithium batteries,” he added.
Also in the Market Prospects session Farid Ahmed, of Wood Mackenzie, looked at the demand for lead in its main application – automotive lead batteries – and concluded that there was ‘a very good future’. Start-stop batteries which are growing in popularity not only need more lead per battery, but demand higher quality lead.
Meanwhile Huw Roberts, of CHR Metals, said that lead output was likely to be 16% higher in 2015 than in 2010 chiefly from growth in Chinese mine production, but that there would be little need for expansion in primary production in the next five years.
In the Sustainability session Dr Alistair Davidson, of ILA, echoed many of the points raised in the conference keynote address.
He cited lead’s low environmental footprint, including its high rates of recyclability (99%) in Europe and North America; the essential uses of lead batteries in conventional vehicles, as emergency back-up power and in renewable energy; and its contribution to economic growth - users of lead-based batteries include the automobile industry that employs 12.7 million people representing 5.3% of the EU employed population.
The conference also heard how lead producers and miners have taken action to protect workers by introducing voluntary targets to reduce occupational exposure to lead that go beyond current international regulations.
The initiative by ILA member companies is an agreement to reduce blood lead levels for all employees to below 30 microgrammes per decilitre (µg/dl) by the end of 2016 and will cover over 7,000 workers in the lead industry in Europe, North America and Australia.
In this session delegates also heard from ILA’s Brian Wilson on the association’s contribution to finding solutions to the challenge of managing used lead-acid batteries in the developing world. Professor Yeo Lin, Director of the International Research Center of Zhejiang University and Yang Chun Ming, chairman of the Chunxing Group, also highlighted developments in management of lead and in innovation in secondary lead technology in China.
In the Communications session delegates heard how ILA is leading industry initiatives to fill the current ‘communications gap’ on lead. Among the speakers were Tammy Stankey, Senior Communications Liaison of The Doe Run Company, who spoke on reputation management and James Stevens, of public relations firm FleishmanHillard, who outlined the important priorities for communications on lead batteries.
In the final session on the Regulatory Environment delegates heard of the crucial role that ILA is playing in the submission from the lead, battery and automobile industries to the ongoing review of the EU End-of-Life Vehicles (ELV) Directive to ensure that the current exemption of lead based batteries from the ban on use of lead is maintained.
The audience also heard from Karsten Kurz from Exide technologies about actions that the industry is taking to mitigate risks to property and workers resulting from a new trend of lookalike lithium-ion batteries causing fires or explosions at lead recycling facilities.