May 17, 2020

Lunchbox for Miners: The L. May Metal Fabricators story

Miner's Lunchbox
3 min
Lunchboxes for Miners: The L. May Metal Fabricators story
For people in the mining industry, working up an appetite is easy to do. The labor intensive sector requires long hours, remote locations and hazardous...

For people in the mining industry, working up an appetite is easy to do. The labor intensive sector requires long hours, remote locations and hazardous working conditions, creating the perfect storm for one’s afternoon hunger. To combat the harsh lunch time setting, the ideal lunch box has been born.

L. May Metal Fabricators, the creators behind the Miner's Lunchbox, is a Canadian-based company specializing in aluminium lunch boxes designed specifically for the mining industry. The lunch boxes, which were originially created by a miner, are manufactured with all steel-nickel-plated hardware to ensure extra strong and durable riveted construction, making them virtually indestructable.

“Our Miners Lunchboxes are known to last 30 plus years, enduring the daily use and abuse of industry workers. They are handed down to the next generation with family pride,” says Owner, Catherine Langin.

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In 2009, the iconic lunch boxes were featured on the CBC television show Dragon's Den. 

Here’s their story:

In 1957, Leo May, a miner working underground at INCO Ltd, the world's major nickel producer, sat his black tin lunch box on its end to use as a seat while waiting for the "cage", the underground elevator system bringing men and supplies in and out of the mine depths.

The next thing he knew he was flat on the ground, his lunchbox squashed. This was not acceptable! So, his inventive mind set about creating a lunchbox that would hold the weight of a man, and his lunch, when there were no seats available -- miners often ate their lunch on the job, in field conditions without chairs or benches. Also, it had to be affordable for the miners, who earned $1.25/per hour at the time.

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Working from a small workbench out of his basement workshop, May came up with a design that not only supported him but was built to last. When May showed up at work with his shiny new lunchbox, he was immediately inundated with orders for 40 more! Soon, Leo's hobby evolved into a small company called L.May Mfg. To identify his lunchboxes, he modestly chose a small stamp in the most popular font of the day and placed it in the upper left hand side -- "just like the address on the letter” -- where that very same stamp shows today. 

These engineering marvels were hand-produced for a few years until demand forced him to invent unique automated equipment for mass production. In 1978, the company was incorporated under the name L. May Metal Fabricators Ltd. Leo's lunchboxes became the standard for the mining and construction industry and virtually 100 percent of  INCO's 20,000 workers carried the lunchboxes from Sudbury. Many workers at the time carried their same lunchboxes until retirement--a span of 30 years. Some say they work like good luck charms.

Leo's lunchboxes are now sold around the globe, as The Original Miner's Riveted Aluminum Lunchboxes and are now used in many innovative settings such as industrial uses, promotional items for advertising agencies, fashion items, household uses, seen in movies and TV commercials. The uses are limited only by your imagination.

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Jun 30, 2021

Rio Tinto and Alcoa begin construction with ELYSIS tech

Rio Tinto
3 min
Rio Tinto and Alcoa’s JV project ELYSIS has the potential to transform the aluminium industry, with a significant reduction in its carbon footprint

Eliminating all direct greenhouse gases from aluminium smelting has taken a major step forward with the start of construction on the first commercial-scale prototype cells of ELYSIS’ inert anode technology, at Rio Tinto’s Alma smelter in Saguenay-Lac-Saint-Jean, Quebec.

ELYSIS has the potential to reduce the carbon footprint of aluminium production

ELYSIS is a joint venture company led by Rio Tinto and Alcoa that is developing a new breakthrough technology, known as inert anode, that eliminates all direct greenhouse gases (GHGs) from the traditional smelting process and instead produces oxygen.

The technology has the potential to transform the aluminium industry, with a significant reduction in its carbon footprint.

The inert anode prototype cells will operate on a commercial scale typical for large modern aluminium smelters, using an electrical current of 450 kiloamperes (kA).

The Honourable Francois-Philippe Champagne, Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry joined representatives from ELYSIS, Rio Tinto and Alcoa to mark the start of construction and announce a further CAD $20mn financial contribution from the Government of Canada to support the project.

The federal government's financial support will enable the creation of a unique commercial size inert anode technology showroom for future customers and will help develop the supply chain by involving local and regional equipment manufacturers and suppliers in the project.

ELYSIS is working to complete the technology demonstration by 2024 followed by the commercialization activities.

ELYSIS technology at a glance:

  • The ELYSIS technology addresses the global trend towards producing low carbon footprint products, from mobile phones to cars, planes and building materials.
  • The new process will reduce operating costs ofaluminiumsmelters while increasing production capacity. It could be used in both new and existing aluminium smelters.
  • In Canada alone, the ELYSIS technology has the potential to reduce GHG emissions by 7 million tons, the equivalent of removing 1.8 million cars from the roads.
  • ELYSIS will also sell next-generation anode and cathode materials, which will last more than 30 times longer than traditional components.

Alcoa and Rio Tinto will continue to support the ELYSIS development program alongside the Governments of Canada and Quebec.

ELYSIS is working closely with Alcoa's Technical Center, where the zero-carbon smelting technology was invented, and the Rio Tinto technology design team in France.

Alcoa's Technical Center supports ELYSIS in the manufacture of proprietary materials for the new anodes and cathodes that are essential to the ELYSIS process. The Rio Tinto technology team in France is creating commercial scale designs for the ELYSIS technology.


Vincent Christ, CEO, ELYSIS commented: “This is a great day for ELYSIS. It means that we are becoming the first technology company in the world to build commercial-size inert anode cells. While we refine the technology in our R&D Centre, we start the construction of our prototype cells. This shows our confidence in our process and in the know-how of our team. The combination of ELYSIS' zero CO2 technology and Quebec's renewable energy will be great competitive advantage for the future. I would like to thank the government for its support and all the partners for their commitment.”

Samir Cairae, Rio Tinto Aluminium managing director Atlantic Operations and ELYSIS board member added: “Today marks a real step towards the future of the aluminium industry, by progressing this breakthrough technology to cut carbon emissions. Rio Tinto is committed to supporting its ongoing development here in Quebec where we already use clean hydropower to deliver some of the world’s lowest carbon aluminium. Combining this technology with renewable hydropower holds the promise of zero carbon aluminium smelting.”

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