Metal Appreciation

Happy Independence Day from all of us here at MetalMiner!

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With most metals markets closed, we’ll be spending the holiday with our families and hope you are all able to do the same.

Independence Day Fireworks

Fireworks that were made possible by metallic salts. Photo: Abode Stock/NinoG.

Fireworks and Metals

Remember that if it wasn’t for metallic salts, there wouldn’t be any fireworks. Strontium carbonate  is used to make red fireworks, calcium chloride  for orange fireworks, sodium nitrate for yellow fireworks, barium chloride for green fireworks and copper chloride for blue fireworks.

Cinco de Mayo is today. I am sure many an American reader will take the opportunity to savor some Mexican tequila.

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I began my career at Mexico’s only stainless steel mill, Mexinox (now part of the Finnish company Outokumpu), which supplied tequila distilleries with the stainless steel used for fermentation and storage tanks. Tequila is a quintessential Mexican drink and was enjoyed by many a customer visiting the Mexinox plant (off-site, of course).


Source: Katie Benchina Olsen/MetalMiner.

After a tour of the plant, it was only appropriate that we gave our customers commemorative bottles of Mexinox-branded El Gran Viejo Tequila to bring back home to the States. I thought it would be interesting to examine just how stainless is used in tequila production.

Why is stainless steel in tequila production? Of course, stainless vats are a sanitary choice; however, stainless does not impart any additional flavors into the mixture of blue agave juice and the distinctive water called the mosto.

Tequila is distilled twice in accordance with Mexican law. Because no leeching occurs in either the fermentation or distillation process when stainless is used, the resulting tequila “blanco” is clear in color and solely the result of the fermentation of the agave juice and spring water.

The addition of proprietary yeast — and classical music in some cases, finishes out the blend.

A former colleague of mine shared that Cazadores plays classical music in the fermentation room because the sound waves create a soft stirring in the tanks that aides in the fermentation process. Many people describe the resulting tequila after two distillation processes as being light with citrus or aloe vera notes. Blanco tequila is aged less than two months in stainless barrels and then bottled. The darker colored tequilas are those that have been aged in oak barrels which means the tequila takes on the flavors of the wood and the harshness of the alcohol mellows.

Anejo or Reposado?

Reposado is aged two months to under a year, and anejo is aged from one to three years. Once the aging is complete, the tequila can then be stored in stainless tanks again until it is bottled.

Stainless steel is a neutral container that allows the natural elements of the blue agave to be fully experienced. The soil and climate have an impact on the taste of the blue agave hearts.

Tequila from the lowland blue agaves is described to have an earthy flavor whereas the highland blue agaves yield sweeter and fruitier flavors. The other factor in the taste of the finished product is the water which is combined with the blue agave juice.

Free Download: The April 2016 MMI Report

Just as bourbon has a unique taste because of the limestone in the Kentucky water, tequila has a special taste because the regional water is high in mineral content. Stainless steel allows all of these factors of Mother Nature to mix together to create a unique tequila without adding any of its own character. By the way,  Mother Nature had a way of bringing tequila to us, supposedly, by a farmer’s wife seeing a rabbit gnawing on a fermented agave plant, according to the Suerte website. I suppose it was luck “suerte” that brought tequila to civilization.

If you need a last-minute gift idea, look no further than Julia Child and Barcelona’s La Sagrada Familia.

old julia child looking at stainless steel knives

Julia feels some steel. Sam G/Flickr

low angle sagrada familia bluesky clouds

When I visited the historic site in 2013, progress was still — shockingly — slow. Photo by Taras Berezowsky

You see, both icons have recently steered us toward the stainless steel world. Child, for her part, wrote “A Life in France,” which my colleague Katie Benchina Olsen has been reading lately, and in it, according to Katie, Child complains that stainless kitchen knives dull too easily. For its part, the procurement committee of the Basilica of La Sagrada Família, the historic Antoni Gaudí-designed church in Barcelona, Spain, has been sourcing its stainless steel material needs exclusively from Outokumpu since 2013 and recently put out a press release about its supplier relationship with the Finnish producer (although we can’t really decipher the reason for the release, as there’s nothing particularly newsworthy in the whole thing…perhaps a new PO for the next phase of construction, which has dragged on for more than a century?)

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At any rate, we thought it funny to riff on an oft-used phrase around the office and in our metals outlook analysis in regards to buying metal forward when prices are falling, which is: “don’t try and catch a falling knife” – in other words, you’re sure to get hurt every time. Read more

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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