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USA - Metals firm's expansion plans not dented by recession

A Bolton-based scrap metal dealer hopes investment in a new £5.5m aluminium foundry will give it an edge over the competition as metal prices around the world continue to suffer.  Andrew & Mark Smith Metals Ltd, which was bought by Dublin-based investment company One51 Plc in 2006, expects the new facility to be ready for commissioning by the spring.  The foundry is due to open in May at a site on Rondin Road, Ardwick, when there will be a two or three-month testing period. Its completion will see the closure of the group's current foundry at Ancoats.  Smith Metals predominantly has contracts with engineering firms across the north of England although its scrap comes from all types of businesses from furniture makers who produce waste by bending metal bars to precision engineering companies.  One contract is with Audenshaw-based printer manufacturer Brother for whom Smith Metals reprocess metal from toner cartridges to prevent it going to landfill.

Smith Metals' business development manager James Cubbon said despite the effect of the credit crunch the group is continuing with the construction of its new foundry site as an investment for the future.  Building is due to be completed in April and although it will be predominantly an aluminium foundry, once running the facility will allow the company to collect larger volumes of other non-ferrous scrap, smelt it and produce ingots.  Cubbon said: "Scrap had an interesting year last year, particularly in our sector. We reached record highs in the summer and then saw a collapse in October like everyone else. Scrap from the construction sector and the automotive sectors have fallen.  "The fall in supply has been counterbalanced by the fall in global demand though. I don't think we will see prices rocket like they did last year but that's not a bad thing because people don't want to see volatility.  "There are certain sectors that are finding the strong euro against the pound to be an advantage because they are managing to export more of their products to Europe and we are finding their output is still high." Cubbon said the new site, which will have three furnaces, will be more efficient and cost effective than the group's current foundry and will also produce fewer emissions and have the capability to process larger volumes of non-ferrous scrap. The firm said it hopes more jobs will be created once the site goes on line.  Cubbon said: "All of us in the scrap industry are regulated extremely tightly by the Environment Agency and environmental legislation and that is particularly the case for a foundry business. It is brand new and built from scratch and everything is state of the art that's going in there.

"It's a mixed picture at the moment. It's tough, but this facility will give us the capability to reprocess more ourselves rather than selling it to other reprocessors. It will definitely help us. It's an investment and something that is being built in tough times."

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