Accumulation of lead in the crustose lichen Acarospora smaragdula sensu lato is reported in the vicinity of an ore- processing plant where it is subjected to acidification and metal particulate fallout. A combination of light microscopy, X-ray element mapping, field emission scanning electron microscopy (FESEM) and other analytical techniques identifies Pb accumulation within specific fungal tissues derived from smelter particles (PM10s). No Pb was detected within the photobiont layer. Our studies suggest that Pb is highly mobile under the prevailing acidic conditions, and is fixed within the lichen cortex and melanized apothecia. Lead is also accumulated within the medulla and at the rock–lichen interface where it may precipitate as amorphous botryoidal encrustations on medullary hyphae and iron-rich particles. Modern FESEMs and microprobes enable analysis of minute quantities of material, and are important tools in understanding the fate of metals within lichens necessary to develop their use as predictive and sensitive bioindicators of aerial particulate contaminants. We suggest that crustose lichens, hitherto largely ignored in metal pollution studies, may be useful bioindicators of aerial particulate contaminants in polluted areas where macrolichens are absent.