Articles in Category: Product Developments

Tesla’s Cybertruck. Source: Tesla

This morning in metals news, automaker Tesla this week showed its new Cybertruck, Chinese President Xi Jinping said he wants to reach an initial trade deal with the U.S. and the CEO of Ace Hardware said the Trump administration’s tariffs are “manageable.”

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Tesla unveils stainless steel body Cybertruck

To much fanfare, Elon Musk and Tesla unveiled a new Tesla truck, dubbed the “Cybertruck,” at the L.A. Auto Show this week.

A single-motor, rear-wheel drive Cybertruck will come with a price tag of $39,900. Meanwhile, a dual-motor all-wheel drive truck checks in at $49,900; the tri-motor all-wheel drive model checks in at $69,900.

According to the Tesla website, production on the vehicles is expected to begin in late 2021.

“Cybertruck is designed to have the utility of a truck and the performance of a sports car,” the Tesla website notes. “The vehicle is built to be durable, versatile and capable, with exceptional performance both on-road and off-road.”

The vehicle body is constructed of cold-rolled stainless steel.

“If there was something better, we’d use it,” Tesla says on its Cybertruck specs page.

Xi hopes for deal; ready to ‘fight back’

The world continues to wait for the much-discussed “phase one” trade deal between the U.S. and China.

Reuters reported Chinese President Xi Jinping indicated he wants to reach an initial agreement and avoid a trade war but that he will “fight back” if necessary.

“When necessary we will fight back, but we have been working actively to try not to have a trade war. We did not initiate this trade war and this is not something we want,” Xi was quoted by Reuters as saying during a forum in Beijing.

Ace CEO says U.S. tariffs ‘manageable’

During a CNBC interview this week, Ace Hardware CEO John Venhuizen said the Trump administration’s tariffs are “pesky” and “frustrating” but “manageable.”

Keep up to date on everything going on in the world of trade and tariffs via MetalMiner’s Trade Resource Center.

According to the CNBC report, Venhuizen earlier this year estimated approximately 12-15% of the hardware company’s business was impacted by the escalating trade conflict between the U.S. and China (which has resulted in hundreds of billions worth of tariffs in both directions).

Photo Courtesy of Supply Dynamics

This morning in metals news, Supply Dynamics took home a national award in the Microelectronics Supply Chain Provenance Challenge, China is investigating steel excess capacity and the Indian Supreme Court has given the green light to ArcelorMittal’s acquisition bid of Essar Steel.

Keep up to date on everything going on in the world of trade and tariffs via MetalMiner’s Trade Resource Center.

Supply Dynamics Takes Home National Award

Supply Dynamics, along with its U.K. partner Brunel University London, recently took home a national award in the Microelectronics Supply Chain Provenance Challenge, which featured 22 companies and more than 75 applicants.

The challenge, which brought companies to Las Vegas earlier this year to showcase their innovations, was hosted by the Air Force Research Labs (in partnership with AFWERX).

“The winning Supply Dynamics/Brunel solution combined the advanced scanning, X-ray, segmentation, and OCR capabilities of Brunel’s HISTEED and VISION technologies with Supply Dynamics’ web-based, multi-enterprise platform, SDX,” Supply Dynamics said in a release. “SDX is currently used by large manufacturing companies in Aerospace, Automotive, Oil and Gas, and Heavy industry to track, trace, classify, and report common raw materials that flow into their products from thousands of sub-tier suppliers.”

The Challenge solicited applications for “non-destructive methods, techniques, and tools to trace the parts of any COTS assembly (hardware and software) to prove provenance and suitability for use in military applications in a cost-effective manner.”

For more information, visit the Challenge’s website.

China to Probe Steel Capacity

According to a Reuters report, the Chinese government is investigating the country’s steel capacity amid surging output.

Despite capacity cuts in recent years on environmental grounds, China’s steel output has continued to rise. China’s steel production through the first 10 months of the year jumped 7.4% on a year-over-year basis, Reuters reported.

According to the World Steel Association, China’s September production rose 2.2% year over year.

Supreme Court Approves ArcelorMittal’s Essar Resolution Plan

The Indian Supreme Court has approved ArcelorMittal’s resolution plan for the distressed Essar Steel, the former said Monday.

“ArcelorMittal announces that, following receipt and review of the formal written order, ArcelorMittal India Private Limited’s (‘AMIPL’) resolution plan for Essar Steel India Limited (‘ESIL’) has been unconditionally approved by the Indian Supreme Court,” ArcelorMittal said. “Supreme Court approval of AMIPL’s resolution plan is the final procedural step in ESIL’s corporate insolvency process.

“Completion of the transaction is now expected before the end of the year. After completion, ArcelorMittal will jointly own and operate ESIL in partnership with Nippon Steel Corporation (‘Nippon Steel’), Japan’s largest steel producer and the third largest steel producer in the world, in-line with the joint venture formation agreement signed by the two companies.”

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Essar Steel is one of a dozen large Indian companies that were thrown into India’s insolvency proceedings in 2017.

vadiml/Adobe Stock

Mining companies are not renowned for their cutting-edge use of the latest technologies; I’m not trying to be derogatory, but mining is not the first industry you think of when talking about the digital age.

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Their association has been more in the use of their products – copper, rare earths, lithium, etc. are required for these new technological developments.

But an article by Neil Hume in the Financial Times this week reports on the world’s largest copper producer Freeport-McMoRan’s adoption of artificial intelligence (AI) to optimize production at its aging Bagdad Copper mine in Arizona.

As the report states, most of the best copper has been extracted at Bagdad, so miners are having to crush more lower-grade rock just to sustain output.

Apparently, Freeport has developed a process with McKinsey, which uses data from sensors around the mine and suggests new ways to improve the performance of its crushers and processing mills. The system found that the mine was producing seven distinct types of ore and that the processing method, which involves the use of large flotation tanks, could be adjusted to recover more copper by adjusting the PH level, the article states.

Freeport-McMoRan CEO Richard Adkerson is quoted as saying the development has been “a remarkable success.” With very little investment, it has boosted production at Bagdad by 9,000 metric tons of copper this year.

On the basis of this pilot, Freeport-McMoRan is rolling the application out to all its mines in the Americas. The miner has set a goal of increasing production by 90,000 tons, or 5% of its production, by applying this technology.

Putting this in context, the article quotes typical costs to develop 90,000 tons of new copper capacity at about $1.5 billion to $2 billion. Cost include buying new haul trucks, giant shovels and ore crushing equipment; according to the firm, this AI program costs very little.

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Where the majors lead, others will follow.

Freeport’s success in using AI to optimize its extraction processes will no doubt be rapidly copied by its peers.

Ricochet64/Adobe Stock

This morning in metals news, South Korea will no longer seek to benefit from special treatment granted to developing countries vis-a-vis WTO rules, iron ore exports from Australia’s Port Hedland are surging and Rio Tinto has commissioned new press filter technology at its Quebec alumina refinery.

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South Korea to Give up Seeking Developing Country Treatment

According to a Reuters report citing South Korea’s finance minister, the country will give up seeking the special treatment afforded to developing countries.

“The government decided not to seek special treatment as a developing country from future negotiations at WTO,” Finance Minister Hong Nam-ki was quoted as saying.

Developing country status is self-designated; however, other WTO members can challenge a country’s claim to the status.

Earlier this year, the White House released a memorandum calling for reforms to developing country designations.

“While some developing-country designations are proper, many are patently unsupportable in light of current economic circumstances,” the memorandum stated. “For example, 7 out of the 10 wealthiest economies in the world as measured by Gross Domestic Product per capita on a purchasing-power parity basis — Brunei, Hong Kong, Kuwait, Macao, Qatar, Singapore, and the United Arab Emirates — currently claim developing-country status.  Mexico, South Korea, and Turkey — members of both the G20 and the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) — also claim this status.”

Through the first half of 2019, South Korea accounted for 9% of U.S. steel imports (1.3 million metric tons).

Port Hedland Iron Ore Exports Rising

Iron ore exports from Australia’s Port Hedland are expected to hit a record high this fiscal year, according to a Bloomberg report.

According to the report, iron ore volumes from the port last year reached 508.5 million tons.

Rio Tinto Announces New Press Filter Tech at Quebec Refinery

Rio Tinto has commissioned new press filter technology at its Vaudreuil alumina refinery in Quebec.

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“The new filter presses will deliver environmental benefits by moving the refinery to dry stacking of bauxite residue and extend the life of the operation, which supports 1,000 jobs in the Saguenay-Lac-St-Jean region,” the company said. “The presses will ramp up to being fully operational in early 2020.”

The new presses will be able to dry bauxite residue — preparing it for storage — in just 17 minutes, according to Rio Tinto, down from the three years it currently takes to dry the material.

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It was always going to be a challenge, but British entrepreneur James Dyson has a reputation for taking on what may appear to be insurmountable challenges and winning.

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He disrupted the old order in the vacuum industry with his revolutionary designs starting in 1993. Dyson then went on to dominate hand dryers, air coolers and air purifiers — in fact, just about anything involving moving air and used electric motors.

Maybe that was the core expertise he felt would give him an edge in the electric car market. His firm’s expertise in electric motors and investments in new battery technologies includes its $90 million investment in Sakti3, a U.S.-based solid-state battery startup.

But after deep soul searching, the firm announced this month it was pulling the plug on its EV division, both at its U.K. headquarters and its brand new facility in Singapore.

Dyson has sunk some $200 million in its U.K. facility alone, including a new test track and building out a team of over 500 engineers and designers it largely hopes to retain in other areas.

Likewise, the Singapore facility is to be repurposed for the development and manufacture of consumer products (most of the 1,200 employees there will be retained).

Expensive as the investments to date have been, the Telegraph reported the management team decided it would be nothing to the losses on the $2.5 billion planned to bring the firm from an initial batch of working prototypes to full-scale production of 10,000 vehicles per year.

So what went wrong, you may ask?

Technologically, the firm had the creative talent and the financial strength to probably deliver on a viable end product, although deadlines were slipping (particularly for the key solid-state battery technology).

But the economics, on the basis of just 10,000 premium vehicles per year, was becoming increasingly tenuous, with new models flooding the market from established manufacturers like Volkswagen, BMW and Jaguar Land Rover. Even Tesla, which had a dominant head start in the premium EV car market, is struggling as competitors rush into an arguably oversupplied market.

Reports that Dyson will have to pay back government grants for research and development are probably premature. The firm only drew down £5 million of a £16 million facility and is clear its R&D investments in battery technology will continue unabated.

The suggestion is Dyson may yet come back to the EV market if it can perfect the solid-state battery technology needed for extended range, greater performance and the rapid charging seen as the holy grail by all EV and battery manufacturers.

In batteries, Dyson retains a significant core competency it will use not just for an eventual return to EVs, but for its whole range of battery-powered appliances.

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For now, the firm’s withdrawal is unlikely to be the only casualty in the rush for EVs.

The construction may be simpler than internal combustion engine vehicles, but the technologies are developing so fast that even mainstream automakers are going to make wrong moves.

If nothing else, Dyson’s decision shows it is capable of swallowing its pride and taking hard decisions before the situation becomes untenable; however, they won’t be the last to be dashed on the rocks of a disruptive new technology.

GM workers earlier this month went on a nationwide strike, the first since 2007 at the Big 3 automaker. Photo by Jeffrey Sauger for General Motors

This morning in metals news, the nationwide General Motors strike has entered its third week, Norsk Hydro is opening a new aluminum research lab and Thyssenkrupp announced a new CEO will take over Oct. 1.

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GM Strike Continues

Earlier this month, the United Automobile Workers (UAW) union announced a nationwide strike at General Motors, the first for the automaker since 2007.

Now, the strike is entering its third week, as negotiations between the union and GM continue.

“We are standing strong and standing together on #SolidaritySunday!” UAW said in a statement released Sunday.

“UAW members across the country will continue to stand strong together until GM ensures fairness and economic justice for workers.”

Norsk Hydro Opens Aluminum Research Lab

Norwegian firm Norsk Hydro is opening a new aluminum research lab in Sweden, at which it will “test new types of aluminium alloys and their extrudability for eventual use in applications that are innovative and which can help customers reduce their carbon footprint.”

“The Extrusion Test Center is located adjacent to Hydro’s product application lab in Finspång, and includes a new aluminium extrusion press and metal casting facilities,” Hydro said. “The investment extends and complements the company’s global research and product application capabilities toward the growing market for sustainable aluminium solutions.”

New CEO Taking Over at Thyssenkrupp

Earlier this month, MetalMiner’s Stuart Burns delved into the challenges faced by German steelmaker Thyssnkrupp, including its efforts to spin off its profitable elevator business and its departure from the German blue chip DAX index.

The shakeup doesn’t stop there, however, for the German firm.

The company announced the termination of CEO Guido Kerkhoff’s mandate; Kerkhoff will be replaced by Martina Merz as of Oct. 1.

Kerkhoff’s tenure as CEO ends after just over a year, having been appointed to the role in July 2018.

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“I would like to thank the employees of thyssenkrupp for their support, which I received especially last year,” Kerkhoff said in a prepared statement. “My goal has always been making thyssenkrupp successful again. It was therefore a matter of course for me last year to take responsibility for the company at a particularly difficult time. I am convinced that the strategic realignment we announced in May will be a success. The company is close to my heart, so I wish Martina Merz, the new Executive Board and all employees all the best for the future and a successful future for the company.”

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This morning in metals news, China’s aluminum production dipped in August compared with the previous month, China plans to bring its first domestically developed sources of medical cobalt-60 to the market and copper prices are down.

China Aluminum Production Falls

China’s August aluminum production fell compared with the previous month, Reuters reported.

The country saw its aluminum production fall 0.5% compared with July production, down to approximately 2.97 million tons, according to Reuters.

Sources of Cobalt-60 to Go to Market

China plans on bringing its first domestically developed sources of medical cobalt-60 to the market, state news agency Xinhua reported.

According to Xinhua, the cobalt-60 will be used to produce gamma knives used for cancer treatment.

Copper Prices Fall

Impacted by a slowdown in Chinese industrial activity, copper prices fell to start the week, Reuters reported.

Three-month LME copper slipped 1.5% down to $5,887 per ton.

Source: World Gold Council

This morning in metals news, the World Gold Council unveiled a set of principles geared toward promotion of responsible mining, Apple’s newest iPhone includes stainless steel and an Indian steel tycoon is critical of the pace of the country’s insolvency proceedings.

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World Gold Council Launches Set of Principles for Responsible Gold Mining

The World Gold Council this week announced the launch of responsible gold mining principles that it says will offer a “new framework that set out clear expectations for consumers, investors and the downstream gold supply chain as to what constitutes responsible gold mining.”

The principles are divided into three categories: governance, social and environment.

“It is our aim that these Principles will become a credible and widely recognised framework through which gold mining companies can provide confidence that their gold has been produced responsibly,” the World Gold Council said. “The Responsible Gold Mining Principles are intended to recognise and consolidate existing standards and instruments under a single framework.”

Newest iPhone Includes Stainless Steel

Apple announced this week that its newest iPhone model, the iPhone 11, will be available in stores Sept. 20.

From a metals perspective, the new phone, which features a a triple-camera system, is made of glass and stainless steel.

“iPhone 11 Pro and iPhone 11 Pro Max have a textured matte glass back and polished stainless steel band, and come in four stunning finishes including a beautiful new midnight green,” Apple said in a release.

Indian Steel Tycoon Critical of Insolvency Proceedings

Indian steel tycoon Sajjan Jindal, head of the JSW Group, panned India’s relatively new bankruptcy and insolvency program on the grounds that it has been slow-moving.

Jindal’s JSW Group put in a $2.7 billion bid for the bankrupt Bhushan Power and Steel in February 2018, but only received approval by an Indian court last week, the Financial Times reported.

Since then, the steel tycoon’s interest in the acquisition has “definitely receded,” he told the Financial Times.

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The country’s Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code, initiated in 2016, aimed to streamline the process by resolving an insolvent business within 270 days; however, as the Financial Times noted, insolvency cases in the country have extended past the mandated 270-day deadline.

Norsk Hydro’s Alunorte refinery. Source: Norsk Hydro

Before we head into the weekend, let’s take a look back at the week that was and some of the metals storylines here on MetalMiner:

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