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Aurubis Buffalo sees uptick in orders

Keywords: Tags  Aurubis Buffalo, Todd Heusner, copper, brass, ammunition, HVAC, telecommunications, electronics lead times

NEW YORK — Copper and brass mill Aurubis Buffalo Inc. has seen an uptick in demand from the ammunition, heating, ventilation and air-conditioning (HVAC), telecommunications and electronics sectors, a top executive said.

The rise in demand has led to a strong order book so far this year, Todd Heusner, vice president of marketing and sales, told AMM. "Orders have gone up considerably. We’ve had a good couple of months of orders."

He declined to give specific lead times, but said they were longer than the eight weeks service centers and distributors were quoting for copper flat-rolled products in January (, Jan. 24).

In order to meet demand, Aurubis is considering hiring more workers at its Buffalo, N.Y., mill, he said.

Ammunition in particular has been a bright spot as consumers, fearing stricter gun regulation laws will come out of Washington, continue to stockpile firearms, Heusner said. "There’s definitely more interest from startups and others trying to service what could be near-term demand. Clearly, legislation in New York and legislation pending nationally has aroused some folks to buy a lot more ammunition. This happens when people get worried they’re going to have difficulty getting ammunition."

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed the state Safe Act (Secure Ammunition and Firearms Enforcement Act) Jan. 16, banning any magazine that can hold more than seven rounds and requiring instant background checks on all ammunition purchases at the time of the sale, allowing authorities to track ammunition purchases in real time to alert law enforcement to high-volume buys. It also requires a statewide recertification of pistol permits every five years and imposes a ban on certain assault weapons, according to the governor’s website.

Most of the bronze produced for ammunition at the Aurubis Buffalo mill, formerly operated by Luvata Oy, is shipped directly to original equipment manufacturers, while only a small amount goes to distributors, Heusner said.

Although he was unable to quantify how much domestic copper goes into ammunition production, he said "it is a sizeable market in the U.S."

One source estimated that ammunition producers purchase between 20 million and 30 million pounds of brass annually (, Feb. 6).

Although there has undoubtedly been a spike in demand for ammunition—market participants have pointed to the 56-percent increase in firearm background checks to 2.5 million in January from 1.6 million in October—Heusner said that demand from both the military and commercial end-markets has been decent for a number of years.

"Both military and commercial demand has remained robust and growing consistently for the past seven or eight years," he said. "Of course, there’s the fear factor that’s giving a short-term bump now. But it goes deeper than that. Shooting is popular on the commercial side. It’s more popular with women that it ever has been. It’s not all fear-based."

In addition, Aurubis has received increased orders from HVAC, telecommunications and electronics customers, which Heusner attributes to the recovering housing sector and booming automotive demand.

"All of those segments are busy right now. HVAC is driven by housing, and the housing trend is positive. Those numbers are pretty strong right now," he said.

The only segment that hasn’t experienced a rise in orders is the engine cooling segment, Heusner said.

Aurubis’ engine cooling products are used almost entirely in off-road vehicles, such as earth movers for mining and heavy construction, and farm equipment, such as tractors and combines. End-consumers include Caterpillar Inc. and John Deere & Co., both of which have forecast a slower first half in 2013, hence the reason for slower demand, he said.

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