-Minimills' that recycle steel are an environmentalist's dream. A fraction of the size of conventional steel mills, the first mills started disassembling discarded Chryslers and Cuisinarts 25 years ago.
cars and appliances get beaten apart in electricity-driven
hammermills, chambers where spinning steel clubs separate glass and
plastic from metal in the same way that a flail separates wheat
from chaff. The metal that comes out in chunks the size of a
volleyball is mostly steel, but includes anything you'd find in a
toaster - from chrome and copper to aluminum. Next, hot electrodes
convert the purified scrap into a molten steel
The alloy is generally turned into bar
steel, those reinforcing beams used in construction, and because
minimills can produce this kind of steel so cheaply, they've pushed
out of this market "Big Steel" manufacturers such as Republic and
Minimill owners are
opportunistic. Before building a mill, they look for places with
cheap land, plentiful labor, available electricity and access to
scrap. That makes rural areas ideal, because, in addition to cheap
land, they tend to have more electricity than the population needs.
Power companies are happy to sell the excess at a bulk rate.
Further, as writer Richard Preston points out in his history,
American Steel, farm kids make good steelworkers: They're not
afraid of big machinery.
Steel, the 12th largest steel producer in the United States,
processes 550,000 tons of scrap each year. Chaparral says it makes
a ton of steel in less than 1.4 man-hours, as compared with an
industry average of three to five hours. Chaparral and other
pioneers like Nucor Corp. have even edged into sheet steel, the
largest market in the country, thanks to the auto
The demand for scrap created by
minimill success has allowed Alan Morris to continue the West's
mining heritage, so to speak,