Construction Equipment North America

Mining Money From Scrap Metal

In 1968, with two used Dodge pickups, Garvin O'Neal Mintz, Sr., launched Mintz Scrap Iron & Metal on a part-time basis in Spartanburg, South Carolina. Mintz and his son, Garvin O'Neal Jr., were electricians, and could sell the scrap copper wire from their projects and those of others.

Building a $25 Million Family Business

Since then, business has grown steadily. In fact, 2006 and 2007 saw Mintz' revenues reach more than $25 million each year from the sale of packed and processed scrap metal. Last year, though, business declined along with the general economy.

Copper On Credit

"I bought our first load of copper from my boss on credit, took it to Asheville (North Carolina), sold it, and made $90 profit," says O'Neal Mintz Jr. "Back then we made $45 or $50 a week in wages. The foremen got the scrap wire from the electrician's business.

"In 1970 we went full-time," says O'Neal. "We started the business in a little gravel-floored building right here in our current location. We put a couple of magnetic signs on our pickup trucks, and we would go out and get the copper from electrical rewinding shops. Then we picked up the scrap from a couple of textile mills, and from that we began to grow.

"In 1972 we got the scrap iron and metal from what is now Fluor Corp. when they built a steam plant for Duke Power," Mintz continues. "In 1973 we landed the Arrow Automotive plant. They built starters, generators, clutches, water pumps and other components for auto manufacturing. That was a big account that put us on the map. We bought their scrap for 13 years."

Through the eighties and nineties, a mainstay of Mintz' business was to buy the waste nickel from textile mills. At the height of that business, in the late eighties, Mintz bought up to 90,000 pounds of nickel per month from Carolina-based textile mills. "We continued to focus on the non-ferrous metals, rather than to break out into the ferrous end (iron) exclusively," says Mintz. "We did that because I didn't have the money to buy the shears, cranes and other equipment that it takes to work with ferrous scrap.

"So I stayed with the non-ferrous metals, where you could buy the balers, and get started for a lot less money," says Mintz. "We buy copper, aluminum and brass, and bale it up for resale to the mills."

Volvo Construction Equipment's Role

Today, Mintz is a processor and packer of all ferrous and non-ferrous metals. The material is baled and packed, then resold to copper mills, steel mills, ingot makers, and primary and secondary aluminum consumers.

Mintz buys, processes, and sells about 15,000 tons of scrap metal per year. About one-third of that is ferrous scrap, and the rest is non-ferrous, mostly aluminum, says operations manager Larry Hutchins.

"Forty years later, we have a name that covers three states pretty well - North and South Carolina, and Georgia," says Mintz. "Through the years we have done very little advertising and we have no salesmen."
To unload, sort, and process all that scrap metal requires some equipment, and that's where Volvo enters the picture. In 2004, Mintz bought its first set of three Volvo skid steer loaders - all Volvo MC90 units. In 2006, Mintz traded in those first three units on another three - one Volvo MC90B and two Volvo MC80B skid steer loaders.

Due to the high utilization of the machines and the harsh conditions under which they work, Mintz trades in the skid steer loaders at two to three-year intervals. And, says O'Neal Mintz, "Every time we get ready to trade, Volvo and their dealer, ASC Construction Equipment, step up to the plate with a sweet deal."

Last year, Mintz bought its third set of three Volvo skid steer loaders, all Volvo MC90B machines. "Volvo has always stood behind what they said they would do," says Jamie Mintz, equipment manager and one of three third-generation Mintz's to work in the business. "Our dealer, ASC, has always bent over backwards to give us good service."

Variety Of Jobs… One Basic Machine

"Our operators like the Volvo skid steer loaders," says Jamie Mintz. "Two of them have grapple buckets, and one of those feeds the aluminum baler. We've mounted a shear on the third skid steer loader. It shears both ferrous and non ferrous scrap."

Mintz finds that Volvo's standard hydraulic package provides plenty of muscle to operate the shear. "We've had these three skid steer loaders for about five months," says Hutchins. "Volvo makes a good dependable machine. They have minimal downtime, they're very maneuverable, and they're easy to service.  Access to the controls is very easy."

Hutchins says the third set of Volvo skid steers is off to a good start; Mintz has had no trouble with them at all. All three machines run on solid rubber tires, to better stand up to the conditions - working in piles of scrap metal.

During booming times, one of the Volvo MC90B machines feeds the non-ferrous baler all day, every day. It's a high-production job that means handling five to six tons per day of non-ferrous metal, most of it aluminum. Aluminum cans are baled separately, and so are aluminum sheet metal, copper, mixed low copper, and aluminum extrusions.

Even though Volvo offers joysticks with pilot controls for the machine movement and bucket of the skid steer loader, Mintz operators prefer the earlier-style controls. Those feature two handcontrolled levers for forward, reverse, and turns, and foot controls for the bucket.

O'Neal Mintz is pleased with the way the Volvo skid steer loaders stand up to multiple operators' use. "When you've got half a dozen people hopping on an off those loaders, they can cause you more problems than if one operator runs the machine," says Mintz. "I've been very pleased that with so many people operating these skid steers, they still don't give us many problems."