Metal Appreciation

jeff yoders chicago cubs 1060 project

Ahoy from the corner of Waveland and Sheffield.

After covering ‘Steel Dumping 101’ in Part 1 and how the grain-oriented electrical steel market is different in Part 2 of our inaugural podcast episode, we turn to a more random endeavor – checking out the Chicago Cubs’ 1060 Project at Wrigley Field to get our structural steel fix.

With Pepper Construction as the general contractor on the project, Jeff and I wanted to get some eyes on the latest phase of development. So how many tons of structural steel are likely involved here? What are some of the sourcing considerations for an undertaking such as the 1060 Project? And most important, what do the fans have to say about steel sourcing? Listen below!

Music: “All Those Devils…” by Holy Pain (

metaltalk sign

Our very first episode of our very first podcast! We’re on DumpWatch: Listen below – and crank up the volume to 11!

(No, seriously, max it out – our input volume was a little low, and you can’t capture this magic in a bottle twice! We got it right in Part 2, which is right here…)

Music: “All Those Devils…” by Holy Pain (

“With stainless steel, we’ve given a traditional material a new expression.”

Using these words, with a backdrop of Epic Music, Apple’s SVP of Design Jonathan Ive concludes his introduction of the Apple Watch with a flourish, in a video featured on Apple’s site.

apple watch stainless steel closeup

Screenshot from Apple Inc’s video of the 316L stainless steel used in the Apple Watch…but of course one can’t embed it on their site, so you’ll have to watch it on theirs.

Launched concurrently with Apple CEO Tim Cook’s speech unveiling the Apple Watch this March, a series of videos highlights the “game-changing-ness”(as they see it) of the Watch, but the ones of interest to us were, of course, those that spotlight the aluminum and stainless steel used in the gadget’s construction process.

FREE Download: The Monthly MMI® Report – covering the Stainless/Nickel markets.

What Is 316L Stainless Steel?

Not only is it strong, shiny, it’s extra-hard too – much like Arnold Schwarzenegger in his iron-pumping salad days.

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Even though a relatively small portion of our intended metal buying audience purchases gold, silver, platinum or palladium for manufacturing, these precious metals love to shine their way through our metals market coverage.

Couldn’t resist a classic cliché there. Sorry. Or, you’re welcome.

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Screenshot from The West Australian's coverage.

Screenshot from The West Australian’s coverage.

Recently, Lynas Corporation founder and chairman Nicholas Curtis signaled that he’s fed up with the down-in-the-dumps, low-price rare earth metal market (our cheeky and unfounded speculation) by announcing his departure from the company after 14 years (according to the West Australian’s reporting).

As both Curtis and MetalMiner say goodbye to the REE market of 2014, we thought we’d take the opportunity to recap the year with a Best of Rare Earths selection.

What the Year in Rare Earths Prices Looked Like


In short, not awesome for Western rare earths producers, such as Lynas and Molycorp. For buyers, the deeply discounted REE complex is only made better by the prospect of going even lower; MetalMiner’s Rare Earths MMI® is having a hard time finding a true floor.

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chernobyl nuclear power plant

A peek at Chernobyl Reactor No. 4 from behind the New Safe Confinement structure. Source: Novarka

Back in 2004, as an undergraduate student working on his thesis in Ukraine, I was offered an unsanctioned ride to Chernobyl.

It didn’t happen.

Rather than jump through the hoops and pay money for a sanctioned tour of the Exclusion Zone, like many others, I was on the lookout for folks willing to drive me up for free. The only person who offered, a former Russian soldier from Chechnya named Sergei who was living on disability and spending the majority of his time being drunk, didn’t seem…well, the most trustworthy. (“Welcome to Ukraine,” amiright?) I was working on a documentary-style play chronicling the effects of the Chernobyl nuclear accident on Ukrainian citizens nearly 20 years on, and figured I should at least see Ground Zero.

Back then, I would have only seen the unattractive concrete “sarcophagus” that the Soviets hastily built to cover Reactor No. 4, the one that infamously blew its lid on April 26, 1986. However, these days, it would be a more interesting venture, if only to see the massive steel arch that 40+ countries have pitched in to build over the sarcophagus (and the 200+ tons of still-radioactive material buried underneath).

FREE Download: The Monthly MMI® Report – covering the metals markets of the Construction sector.

The arch is officially called the Chernobyl New Safe Confinement (NSC), and the latest work on it is detailed by this video published by the Economist:

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There is much to be thankful for in 2014 but since this is a site dedicated to metals markets and metal price trends, we’ll stick to a narrow interpretation of the holiday.

FREE Download: The Monthly MMI® Report – covering the Aluminum market.

To begin, it goes without saying that buying organizations have much to be thankful for. Generally speaking, the commodity markets have fallen in 2014 and that means our buying audience should largely have paid less for their metals in 2014 than in 2013. Though metals producers generally don’t like falling commodities markets, the lower prices – particularly for energy-intensive producers – have meant cost advantages on the raw materials side. That has translated to higher earnings, particularly for aluminum producers: Alcoa, Century Aluminum, Kaiser Aluminum Corp., Constellium. And the steel producers haven’t fared too badly either particularly – U.S. Steel and Nucor.

Happy Thanksgiving from MetalMiner!

Happy Thanksgiving from MetalMiner!

And the service centers also fared pretty well in 2014 – Reliance Steel & Aluminum, Worthington Industries and newly listed Ryerson all posted respectable numbers.

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MetalMiner doesn’t mess around when it comes to knowing the ABCs of metals buying for manufacturers. And these top research papers and reports should prove it.

Before September comes into full swing, let our team of analysts – including Lisa Reisman, Stuart Burns, Pierre Mitchell, and Raul de Frutos – refresh you on the first half of 2014.

The Top 5 Reports of 2014 So Far

1. 7 Metal Buying Strategies for 2014: A Category Sourcing Guide

base metals steel buyers guide

There’s probably nothing more in MetalMiner’s analytical wheelhouse than this type of report. From base metals to hot-rolled and cold-rolled steel coil outlooks, we gave you our take on where the markets were going. Check it out to see how right or how wrong we were – chances are, we were right.


2. Supply Management Perspectives and Implications for Increased LNG Export Levels

ISM-LNG-report-coverMetalMiner, in conjunction with the Institute of Supply Management (ISM), conducted a snap survey to better understand the potential impact of American LNG exports on energy prices and the manufacturing sector overall. Hint: it’s a big deal for manufacturers, and Lisa Reisman, Pierre Mitchell and Raul de Frutos analyzed the findings to bring you some killer insight.


3. The Impact of Regulatory Issues on the Future of Supply Management

green-regulations-supply-chain-management-report-thumbnailOr, more specifically speaking, what is the role of the procurement function when it comes to sustainability initiatives in an overly regulated economic climate? And what does Apple’s CEO Tim Cook have to do with any of this? Find out in this gem.



4. Monthly MMI Report – July 

TRENDS_Chart_July-2014_FNLYou know the drill by now. But this was OUR MOST VIEWED PAGE ALL YEAR. Find out why July was so special.


5. Behind the Firewall: GOES Market Analysis 2014 and Beyond

GOES-whitepaper-cover-thumbnailAnd finally, this is certainly MetalMiner’s most niche-y coverage area, but may indeed be our deepest – the grain-oriented electrical steel market. Executive Editor Lisa Reisman takes us through the whirlwind that’s taken place for the last year or so in this, the most comprehensive guide to the GOES market and price movements available anywhere.

My esteemed colleague Jeff recently pined for the day when MetalMiner can provide some ‘peaceful minerals’ coverage, as opposed to ‘conflict minerals.’

While we all hope for such a day, it will come at likely the same time as peace in the Middle East, the Chicago Cubs winning the World Series, pigs flying, or Burger King buying Tim Hortons (oh wait, that last one did happen!).


These minerals look pretty peaceful, right? Well, as Mick Jagger once sang, ya can’t always get what ya want…


Until then, we have to focus on the so-called conflict minerals, or 3TG – tin, tungsten, tantalum, and gold – and how they’ve really screwed with supply chain managers and compliance officers all over the US. As our readers should know by now, the upheaval is due to a Dodd-Frank regulation that led to an SEC rule demanding public US companies audit their supply chains and report whether those supply chains are conflict-free.

The first deadline for companies to file compliance paperwork with the SEC fell on June 2, 2014.

2014: The Year So Far in Conflict Minerals 

So what did you miss? Hopefully not much, if your company was one required to submit your Form SD starting this year.