Metal Appreciation

While today about 2.2 billion people celebrate the 2013th birthday (or thereabouts) of their religion’s founder, this year, those who cover the manufacturing industry are celebrating a century and a quarter of the American automobile.

This is a story about Daimler, later Mercedes, of course. But did you know that there once was an American Mercedes company?

125 years ago, Gottlieb Daimler and William Steinway established the Daimler Motor Company in New York with the help of German-born William Steinway (of musical instrument fame) who had convinced Gottlieb Daimler to build Mercedes cars here in the USA.

american mercedes ad

With a top speed of around 14 mph, the first production models of American Mercedes hit the “roads” in 1905 – demanding a princely sum of $10,000 which, considering inflation since 1905, would cost around $263,000 in 2013.

That price tag is probably about the same that a fully optioned Designo edition of the V12-powered S65 AMG will fetch in 2015.

silver mercedes on road

The V8-powered 2013 S63 shown above starts at around a “mere” $150,000. Either car, if unrestricted, is capable of speeds over 200 mph.

If you have an original American Mercedes from 1905, you can probably trade it for a few of the new cars…which would make quite a sweet Christmas gift to yourself.

Read more here, and Merry Christmas from MetalMiner!

Thomas Kase, lead analyst for MetalMiner’s sister site Spend Matters, is also our resident auto buff.

aluminum anthill chamber art

I know this is a bit weird, but hey, it’s Christmas, and as a piece of art it rather appealed to me – particularly as it is “made” out of aluminum.

I talk of course of a creative individual who pours molten aluminum into a fire anthill and creates an amazing replica of every chamber and tunnel of those remarkable insects’ habitat.

The guy operates under the tag of and a video on YouTube shows what a longwinded process is involved for each creation. Liquid aluminum is poured into the entrance of the anthill and allowed to cool; some hours later – you will notice it is dark by the time the solid nest is dug up – the earth around the structure is removed and the whole piece lifted out to have any remaining soil jet-washed off.

The resulting brightly reflective structure measures some 18” high and up to 13” wide, weighing in at about 18 pounds. Mounted on a wooden plinth, it shows the incredible complexity of an ant nest – what a neat piece of art that makes, don’t you think?

The ants’ nest in question appears to be an active site, as in the beginning of the clip live ants can be seen on the cone, but the a caption below the video reads: “These are the red imported fire ants which are harmful to the environment and their nests are exterminated by the millions in the United States using poisons, gasoline and fire, boiling water, and very rarely molten aluminum.”

Very droll.

No mention of what grade of aluminum is used, but we assume it’s most likely a casting alloy, as it would flow and cast most effectively given the investment casting-type shape of the ant’s nest.

Wonderful! So where can I buy one?

metalminer holiday decorations

Dear readers!

The whole MetalMiner team thanks you for making 2013 a great year (and implores you to keep coming back in 2014!).

Wishing you and yours a happy and healthy Christmas, Hanukkah (oops, we’re late on that one), Kwanzaa and New Year. With that, just a few notes on the following week before we meet back up the week of Dec. 30:

  • Prices on our MetalMiner IndX℠ will continue to be updated daily
  • We’ll continue to publish our daily price updates on the blog during the week
  • We’ve got some Best of MetalMiner on tap starting later in the week, plus a special look back at the history of cars in the US

See you all on the flipside!

~MetalMiner editors

In the mood to work today?

We didn’t think so.

Ahead of MetalMiner’s 6th birthday next week (stay tuned), here’s a birthday video retrospective. Enjoy!

giant steel horseheads


For the Thanksgiving weekend, a lighter note, but still very much metals-centric as only 600 tons of steel can be.

What would you do with 3.6 miles of steel sections weighing some 600 tons?

I suspect building two 100-ft-high horses’ heads is fairly low on the list, but that’s exactly what a firm in the UK has gone and done at Falkirk in Scotland.

Read more


“The latest quarterly pricing negotiations are expected to begin [this] week between Japanese buyers and miners including Rusal, Rio Tinto Ltd , Alcoa Inc and BHP Billiton, and are expected to continue to next month… Rusal, the world’s biggest aluminium producer, said it had offered January-March shipments of the metal to Japanese buyers at a premium of $270 per tonne, seeking a record high.” -Reuters 

Scene: The docks at the Japanese port of Yokohama, where a gigantic oceanworthy yacht named RUSLANA has come to rest. Four executives spill out, led by Andrew Mackenzie, CEO of BHP Billiton, then Sam Walsh, CEO of Rio Tinto, Klaus Kleinfeld, CEO of Alcoa, and finally Oleg Deripaska, CEO of Rusal, the yacht’s owner. They are met by a group of Japanese metal buyers.

Japanese Buyer 1: Konnichiwa! Welcome to Nihon. So glad you all could make negotiations in person.

Deripaska: Ach! Don’t mention it. How better to get back in touch with our favorite buyers than in person!

Kleinfeld: Besides, we all needed to get out of the house!

Mackenzie: We just wanted to try out the RUSLANA, Oleg here’s been talking it up – she plies the seas rather well.

Deripaska: I spare no expense, Andy! But our navigation must have been off, we were aiming for the Port of Tokyo and instead we ended up here…

Japanese Buyer 2: To be honest, gentlemen, we weren’t expecting you, but rather, your representatives.

Deripaska: Nonsense, nonsense…we’re happy to be here. I can’t speak for these other guys, but I spend every minute of my working hours thinking nonstop about my company’s Japanese clients and how much they mean to Rusal, whether I’m shopping in New York or dining in London or…

Walsh: Have you stepped foot in this land before, Oleg?

(A beat.)

Japanese Buyer 1: We believe you, Mr. Deripaska. We’re at your service, here to help. It’s just that…well…we heard that you wanted to up the Q1 2014 aluminum premiums on us.

Japanese Buyer 2: Sources told us that it would run somewhere around $270 per ton…

Kleinfeld: Oh boy.

(Mackenzie and Walsh begin wandering down the dock.)

Weeks upon weeks go by, and it turns out the negotiations were unexpectedly brutal – the CEOs weren’t sure they were going to make it. The Japanese buyers withheld martinis, scotch and caviar, trying to persuade their suppliers to give them a break. Only half the original team survived – the raw material mongers Mackenzie and Walsh couldn’t hang on…and ended up taking private jets back to the West. Then, finally, a breakthrough: another Japanese buyer (we’ll call him “3”) cut through the fog and showed Deripaska the way to the promised land.

Scene: A sleek conference room in the Toyko Park Hyatt.

Japanese Buyer 3: See? We hit on the best solution for all sides. You get to salvage some your profit margin and we avoid $270-per-ton premiums – win-win.

Deripaska: Oy bozhe, spasiba! You’re a lifesaver!

Japanese Buyer 1: Now, let’s feast – Nihon-style!

Kleinfeld: Can we hit up Sukiyabashi Jiro? I’ve always wanted to meet Jiro Ono. Hope he’s still alive.

Deripaska: Oh, I loved that film.

Japanese Buyer 2: Toro for everyone!

Deripaska: It’s on me!

Thus, buyer helps seller, seller repays buyer, and fatty tuna becomes the centerpiece of this New Thanksgiving.

So what actually happened during the negotiations? How did Japanese aluminum buyers avoid higher premiums? Leave a comment below with your ideas! And for more Thanksgiving reading, don’t miss the following FREE downloads:

golden color water bottle

Copper-and-zinc-infused water the next big thing in India…

Copper, zinc and one of India biggest brands, Tata? What’s the Darwinian missing link here?

As most of our readers would know, Tata is a well-known global manufacturer of steel with footprints in the US as well as Europe. But besides Tata Steel, the Tata Group of companies has a range of businesses, one among which is Tata Global Beverages. And it is copper and zinc which is on the radar of this company, definitely not steel.

FREE Download: The Monthly MMI® Report – price trends for 10 metal markets.

Some time ago, PepsiCo and Tata Global Beverages floated a joint venture called NourishCo Beverages. The JV soon launched a line of nutrient-heavy drinking water called Tata Water Plus and Tata Gluco Plus. Available in just two states of India so far, the plan now is to make these water brands available in Tier 2 and Tier 3 cities of the country soon.

Tata Water Plus, the joint venture’s debut product, claims to be India’s first nutrient water and is priced at about 25 cents (Rs 16) for a 750 ml bottle. Tata Gluco Plus was developed by PepsiCo. It is priced at about 9 cents (Rs 6) for a 200 ml cup.

And, here’s the missing link to those crucial minerals, copper and zinc. The company has claimed that the nutrient-enriched water shall contain copper and zinc, two metals that are known to strengthen the human immune system.

Read more

We have all had the experience of sitting in a cinema seat or on a bus or train and finding a stray coin, haven’t we?

One day when coins are replaced by plastic or inflation forces us to only use notes, the metal coin will be a thing of distant memory, but for now they remain part of everyday life and try as we might, some of them get away from us!

Well, cinema and bus cleaners may have more perks than free viewings and bus passes if a story in the BBC is anything to go by. It seems we probably lose more money every time we sit down than we thought. I know my car is periodically showered with change when I hop in too quickly and it would seem I am not alone in losing a proportion of my personal wealth every time I drive.

Here’s how the Chinese capitalize on that.

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Costa Concordia salvage: 30,000 tons of steel for a hulk of scrap metal.

The New York Times, along with many other publications, has been running the story of Italian cruise ship Costa Concordia’s salvage off the Tuscan coast this week. Dramatic pictures – best watched in time-lapse replay – show the glacial righting of the stricken vessel that ran aground on the night of January 13th, 2012.

Apparently, the Italians felt the accident was a cause for national shame when in reality the only shame should have been allotted to the captain who fled the vessel before his passengers and, by all accounts (court case pending this fall), caused the accident by changing course to sail the vessel too close to his home town.

As a result, the vessel hit rocks that resulted in a 70-meter (230-foot) gash in the hull and the loss of 32 passengers and crew.

Preparations for the monumental salvage operation took 14 months, but just 19 hours after starting, the vessel is now upright and resting on a false seabed made of a steel frame and 16,000 metric tons of concrete-filled sandbags, before buoyancy tanks on the side are emptied of sea water and the vessel is floated off for scrapping. Salvage of ships is not normally a topic for MetalMiner, but the sheer scale of this operation, said to be the world’s largest, deserves a closer look.

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dieter zetsche mercedes S coupe

Dieter and the S-class coupe. Image still from

Mercedes Benz joins Google in the driverless car conversation, and with their top position in the auto market, what’s to stop them?

In August, Mercedes-Benz again saw double-digit growth in the US and China (including Hong Kong). In Germany, the US and Japan, the Mercedes-Benz continued to be the most registered premium manufacturer since the beginning of the year.

To celebrate, it’s car-show time!

At the IAA auto show in Frankfurt, Germany, Mercedes-Benz’ CEO Dieter Zetsche joked that “promises are like babies, easy to make, hard to deliver” on the topic of improving cars. A female assistant started up their 1886 (replica, presumably) three-wheeler on stage and drove off – an homage of sorts to Karl Benz’ wife Bertha, who was the first long-distance driver in the world.

This prelude eventually led to MB’s new (concept) “Intelligent Drive” version of the 2014 S500, which was driven the same 104-km stretch of road that Mrs. Benz originally covered around 125 years ago – but without human driver input this time. Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic – as Arthur C. Clarke said – and Zetsche’s comment around the new technologies being magic is no great exaggeration.

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