SA Metal Group – maximising the value of scrap metal

Now beneficiating copper and brass.

SA Metal Group might be one of the oldest and largest scrap metal collectors and recyclers in South Africa but when you visit the company’s head office in Epping Industria, Western Cape, you are introduced to an aspect of the company that is not commonly known – beneficiating the scrap metal it collects and processes.

Scrap metal has been the core business of the family-owned SA Metal Group for the majority of its lifespan since grandfather Wolfe Barnett, an immigrant from the UK, established the company in 1919. Initially the company earned its revenue from buying up old machinery and breaking it up for spares. Scrap was a byproduct that was shipped back to the UK but this changed when spares became readily available in South Africa.

The Group is now run by Graham Barnett who deals with administrative functions, and Clifford who looks after the operational side. Both started at the company in the 1980s while father Aubrey was in charge. More recently fourth generation Barnetts – Graham’s sons Daniel and Rafael have joined the Group.

Great care has to be taken during a copper melt. Copper won’t melt until it reaches
1 084 degrees Celsius

Copper rod ready to be sent to the extrusion facility for further beneficiation

“Scrap metal prices per kilogram in South Africa are consistently changing and it is always a challenge for those companies in the industry to keep up with the changes. Ultimately however, we have been around for many years and now have 10 locations around South Africa – we only expanded outside of the Western Cape in 2001.”

“We have always believed in adding value to whatever material we collect wherever this is viable. All scrap metal purchased by the Group is processed by sorting, shearing, shredding, torch-cutting, granulating and baling, amongst other processes. In addition, all our scrap processing yards are equipped with the latest cranes and handling equipment that are able to unload material from suppliers, safely and quickly.”

“Our steel shredding plant for example, situated in Christian Avenue, Epping Industria, produces shredded steel scrap at a rate of up to 120 tons per hour, reducing auto bodies, home appliances and other steel structures into fist-sized clean fragments of steel.”

“But it is not only steel that we recycle and process. All non-ferrous metals are processed or sorted in our main and satellite sites. This includes aluminium, copper, zinc, stainless steel, lead, nickel, brass, tin, bronze and others. We purchase scrap metal from a wide range of Southern African sources including industrial enterprises, scrap metal dealers and private individuals.”

“Non-ferrous metal and shredder waste recovered from the shredding plant is sorted further in our separation plant, where a combination of perforated screens, wind sifters, eddy-current separators and induction sorting systems (ISS), coupled with hand-picking lines, ensure that over 99% of the metal contained is safely and efficiently collected.”

The continuous cast melting process allows SA Metal Group to produce two sizes of solid copper rod

The new 1 000kW Inductotherm VIP™ Power Supply Unit in the melting department

“Designed for high capacity and reliability, our two 1 000 ton Lindemann shears, the largest in Africa, are situated at Epping Industria and at our plant in Germiston. A third 1 000 ton Le Fort shear is operational in Pretoria.”

“The company is geared to operate in remote regions where mobility is paramount. With this in mind, our mobile baling machines are rigidly constructed to ensure optimal productivity. By compacting vehicles and other light metal raw materials into manageable-sized bales, we are able to facilitate the cost-effective transportation of this material to our works. Our mobile shears are likewise used in much of our demolition work and in the processing of on-site scrap material. Designed with durability and structural integrity, mobile shears can operate in the harshest of conditions and, with unparalleled power, allow a fast cut cycle that dramatically increases efficiency.”

“Advanced portable spectrometers are used extensively in our day-to-day operations. These provide accurate metal analyses to ensure the correct valuation of recyclable material.”

“Our weighbridges are electronic, assized and calibrated and are fitted with radiation detection equipment and cameras to ensure safety as well as accurate, documented systems for all material received at our yards across the country.”

“In addition, we operate a highly advanced machine shop on our premises, where we are able to manufacture a wide range of precision components.”

“Our works is also equipped with a boilershop, container building and repair works, a hydraulic repair shop, a carpentry shop and plumbing and electrical departments.”

Further beneficiation of copper, brass and steel
“Because of the constant fluctuation in the price of scrap metal we took the decision that wherever possible we should add further value to the metals that we were processing. This resulted in the establishment of a steelworks mill in 1999.”

Copper is a ‘soft’ material and can easily be extruded

Brass rods that have been extruded

“Under the banner SA Steelworks, SA Metal Group manufactures steel billet, reinforcing bar, round and square bar in straight lengths and coils at this plant. All products are manufactured from 100% recycled scrap steel.”

“Our shredded steel scrap is melted using energy-saving and low-emission electric induction furnaces and is then refined, alloyed and continuously cast into billets. These are then reheated and rolled into a range of long steel products, all manufactured in accordance with international and South African Bureau of Standards (SABS) specifications.”

“All recycled steel used at SA Steelworks is collected in the Western Cape and processed in our own works. SA Steelworks is the only operating steel mill in the Western Cape region.”

Raw materials
The production of copper products begins with raw material in the form of either copper scrap, newly refined copper (called cathode copper, or simply cathode) or copper ingots. The choice of raw material depends on economic factors such as cost and availability, and the technical capabilities of the plant’s melting furnace.

Copper scrap is most often in the form of recycled copper wire that has been stripped of its insulation and/or baled copper tube, pipe, rod and other scrap that has been removed from demolished buildings, for example. Another common form of scrap is the so-called “home” or “runaround” scrap generated within the processor or fabricator itself.

SA Copperworks, a division of the SA Metal Group, now manufactures a wide range of high-conductivity rectangular, square and round copper busbars, coiled copper rods and strip, paper-covered copper strip for the transformer industry, round and hexagonal solid and hollow brass bars, and solid square brass bars, as well as other profiles on request

Other profiles and sizes are manufactured on request

“We realised that the company was collecting enough copper and brass scrap to consider beneficiating the material further. Coupled with the success and experience that the company had gained with setting up SA Steelworks and our own research, a decision was taken to setup a facility to manufacture copper busbars and brass bar with the intent to supply a broad spectrum of fabricators.”

“There are many fabricators of copper busbar in South Africa but very few companies that are manufacturing the busbar itself. The decision was made in 2015 and the process of setting up the mill to produce the copper and brass rod began. The installation of equipment for the mill was completed in early 2016 and includes a 1 000kW Inductotherm VIP™ Power Supply Unit.”

“The continuous cast melting process allows us to produce solid copper rod which is then coiled before being sent to the extrusion facility, which was also setup from scratch.”

“SA Copperworks now manufactures a wide range of high-conductivity rectangular, square and round copper busbars, coiled copper rods and strip, paper-covered copper strip for the transformer industry, round and hexagonal solid and hollow brass bars, and solid square brass bars, as well as other profiles on request.”

Copper busbar that has been extruded

Solid copper bar

“Product is either cut-to-size or coiled in strip, depending on the application needed by the fabricator. A full range of sizes are manufactured.”

“All the dies and other necessary accessories for these facilities are manufactured in our machine shop, as are any wear parts for the continuous casting and extrusion machines.”

“We have invested heavily over recent years and we can now boast that we have one of the largest capacities in South Africa to manufacture copper busbar that is supplied to many different industries.”

“Most scrap yards typically accept recyclable material from contractors and others, but many of them act only as the middleman and resell the material to specialised processors outfitted with the necessary high-tech equipment to efficiently process the material. We are now very much one of those specialised processors.”

For further details contact SA Metal Group on TEL: 021 590 3900 or visit