Two expansions in three years – Metales Bolueta steps into the market leadership thanks to STEINERT technology

The recycled metals business has changed drastically in the last few years. There is more demand today for high-quality secondary raw materials, i.e. recycled raw materials, than ever before. At the same time, rising energy prices are squeezing profit margins. Metales Bolueta has held its ground in this complex market for over 40 years, but it is only very recently that it has managed to make a major breakthrough. Collaborating closely with STEINERT, the metal recycling firm has built a new plant to improve the quality of its products in line with market demand and to expand its capacity at the same time. The next round of investment is already planned for the near future.

Metales Bolueta is a family-run business, founded in 1980 and is based near Bilbao, Spain. Initially, the founder Julio Marín traded in non-ferrous metals at a site just 200 square metres in size. A few years ago, he passed the business on to his three sons. Julio Marín has continued to advise them in the background. Metales Bolueta currently handles around 4000 tons of metal a month. As customer requirements have grown, the focus on quality has become a key goal, especially in the aluminum sector.

CEO Joseba Marín, one of Julio's sons, recalls,

Ten years ago, we were processing around 2000 tonnes of metal a month. We could see huge potential in the aluminum sector, but our customers needed aluminum with very high levels of purity for extruders and rolling mills. Our systems weren’t able to cope; we needed to expand. That was when the idea for the plant in Gatika was born.

The Gatika project

The small town of Gatika is around 20 km away from the head office. STEINERT was involved in the entire project, from design and construction to commissioning and fine-tuning the sorting systems. Joseba Marín explains the layout of the plant, “Our plant in Gatika comprises a yard where we receive, pre-sort and pre-classify raw materials, comprising mixed metals and aluminum profiles. We then shred and screen the material to achieve homogeneous particle sizes for optimum sorting. An eddy current separator enriches non-ferrous metals and, thanks to a STEINERT X-ray sorting system, we achieve the aluminum concentrate purities that our customers demand.” Operators of aluminum smelters in particular attach great value to products from Metales Bolueta, as they can be processed in the same way as primary goods. “I’m finding that customers routinely stress the quality of our products compared with the rest of the market.”

After the milling process, the Gatika aluminum separation line starts with a STEINERT MTE electromagnetic drum. This is followed by a STEINERT EddyC with a STEINERT MOR neodymium magnetic separator upstream and a STEINERT XSS T EVO 5.0 X-ray sorting system.

The STEINERT EddyC eddy current separator recovers non-ferrous metals such as aluminum, brass, zinc or copper. The STEINERT XSS T EVO 5.0 sorting system separates heavy metals and light metals followed by cast and wrought aluminum. When sorting wrought aluminum, thanks to X-ray transmission technology, the plant reliably achieves extremely high levels of purity of up to 99.8% to respond to the demands of the market.

According to CEO Joseba Marín, there has always been enough material on the market, but processors have needed powerful sorting systems because of the highly fluctuating levels of input quality, especially profiles and to a lesser degree taint/tabor. “Thanks to STEINERT technology, we are seeing that even when using a low-quality material, we can achieve a quality product that meets the requirements of our customers.” 

The plant in Gatika has been in operation for only 2 years. But in this short period of time, Metales Bolueta has managed to become a leading national supplier of recycled material of the highest quality.

Continuous support was key to success  

The management team at Metales Bolueta was impressed with how STEINERT collaborated with them right from their very first meeting. “With these kinds of projects, we would normally approach several providers in order to assess different technologies and approaches. But right from the outset, STEINERT understood our goals and philosophy. We instantly felt that they were right for us,” explains Joseba Marín. “Even during difficult periods, like the pandemic, when it felt like the world had stopped and we were just starting to implement the project, STEINERT’s experts were available to us whenever we needed them. We have grown together.”

The experiences gained in the STEINERT Test Center were of particular significance to smooth commissioning. Alongside direct support and technical training from the application specialists on site, the ultramodern Test Center was also available for practical testing under realistic conditions.  “We were able to test our own material to see whether the process complied with the requirements and quality we were looking for - and it did. The Test Center houses some fantastic, state-of-the-art technology. STEINERT recognises the needs of our customers and is continually developing the technology to meet them.”

Metales Bolueta continues to expand

Metales Bolueta already has firm plans for the next round of expansion. At the start of 2024, it is beginning to build a parallel sorting line with another STEINERT XSS T EVO 5.0 X-ray sorter. Joseba Marín is anticipating that capacity will grow by another 1000 tonnes a month. “We have a new project that will see the light of day at the start of 2024. This will involve us significantly increasing capacity again. This line will be the cherry on the cake for Gatika. I look forward to us continuing to grow with STEINERT.”

About Steinert

The history of STEINERT dates back more than 130 years: the family-owned, Cologne-based business is one of the world's leading experts in sensor sorting and magnetic separation for waste and metal recycling as well as mining. With 450 employees, STEINERT generates an annual turnover of approximately EUR 180 million. In addition to 50 sales partnerships and joint ventures across the globe, the company has subsidiaries in Germany, Australia, Brazil and the USA.

Media contact

Marianne Grub

Marketing Manager