The steel mill has been called many things: polluter, eyesore, historic. But one title we need to start using to describe the 140-year-old behemoth is recycler. The Evraz Rocky Mountain Steel Mill is the largest recycler in the state, recycling more than a million tons of scrap metal annually. I saw with my very own eyes the magnitude of this venture on a tour of the mill hosted by the Colorado Association for Recycling in June. This mini city of a plant is a blend of turn-of-the-century hard work with 21st century technology.
The practice of making new steel products is a relatively straightforward yet intricate process. Scrap metal is delivered to the Pueblo plant daily from around Colorado and across the region by rail and truck. According to Devon Holliday, Manager of Scrap & Raw Material Sourcing for Evraz Pueblo, “When it arrives, the material is inspected for quality to ensure it’s the grade we purchased and that it meets our specifications… Railcars can go directly to the melt shop for scrap unloading, or the scrap can be unloaded into the pile for later use.” Each manufactured product requires a certain “recipe” using different grades of scrap.
The climax of scrap recycling is witnessing the electric arc furnace use its white-hot power of 3000 degrees Fahrenheit to transform rigid metal into glowing liquid steel. This relatively new technology is much more energy-efficient than old furnaces and can run continuously 24/7.
Evraz produces multiple finished products but concentrates its manufacturing in four areas: rod, rail, seamless pipe and coiled reinforcing bar. The mill’s 1200 workers produce these products with 100% recycled metal equaling the weight of a whopping 1300 passenger cars per day! Evraz prides itself on finding a reuse market for every component of the process, such as using leftover slag for road base. The Rocky Mountain Steel Mill might have some distance to go for air quality but it definitely has recycling covered.