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A History of Sherritt – Fifty Years of Pressure Hydrometallurgy at Fort Saskatchewan – by M. E. Chalkley, P. Cordingley, G. Freeman, J. Budac, R. Krentz and H. Scheie (Part 5 of 5)

Application of Sherritt’s Pressure Hydrometallurgical Technology to Other Metals

Much of Sherritt’s metallurgical and product technology developed over the last 50 years can be traced back to work done during the development of the ammonia leach process.  Pressure leaching of sulphide ores and concentrates, using continuous horizontal autoclaves, provided the basis for a thriving pressure hydrometallurgical process licensing business which offered processes for treating nickel mattes and concentrates, zinc concentrates, and refractory gold ores and concentrates.  The nickel reduction process perfected in the Ottawa pilot plant was subsequently licensed worldwide.

During the early 1950’s, following the successful commissioning of the nickel refinery at Fort Saskatchewan, Sherritt utilized its laboratory and pilot plant facilities in Ottawa to look for other potential applications for pressure leaching processes in the metals industry (14).  Laboratory tests were carried out on the pressure leaching of uranium ores and on the pressure oxidation of refractory gold ores, where the oxidative pressure treatment proved an excellent method for oxidizing pyrite and arsenopyrite to liberate the gold for subsequent recovery.

Two additional leaching plants were built by Chemico to treat cobalt concentrates in the aftermath of the Korean War, when the cobalt price was artificially high, but both plants became uneconomic as the price of cobalt declined, and closed in the early 1960s.  A fourth pressure leaching plant was the Port Nickel plant, constructed by Freeport to treat the nickel-cobalt sulphide from Moa.

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A History of Sherritt – Fifty Years of Pressure Hydrometallurgy at Fort Saskatchewan – by M. E. Chalkley, P. Cordingley, G. Freeman, J. Budac, R. Krentz and H. Scheie (Part 4 of 5)

Pressure Hydrometallurgy at Moa

The acid pressure leach process for the treatment of low magnesium content lateritic ore has been in operation at the Pedro Sotto Alba plant in Moa, Holguin, Cuba since 1959.  The plant was originally constructed by Chemico for Moa Bay Mining Company, a subsidiary of Freeport Sulphur, but was taken over by the Cuban government in 1960.  The plant recommenced operations in 1961, under Cuban management.

Under Cuban management the production at Moa gradually increased and improvements were made to the recovery of nickel and cobalt.  In December 1994, Sherritt Inc. and General Nickel Co. S.A. announced the formation of a combined enterprise that included the Moa plant, now known as Moa Nickel S.A.   The nickel and cobalt sulphides produced by Moa Nickel S.A. (13) are transported to the nickel and cobalt refinery at Fort Saskatchewan, Alberta, Canada now known as “Corefco” (The Cobalt Refinery Company Inc.), a second combined enterprise company, for processing to pure metal products.

At Moa, Nickel limonite ore is processed in a high-pressure acid leach to selectively dissolve nickel and cobalt from the ore.  Concentrated sulphuric acid is the lixiviant.

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A History of Sherritt – Fifty Years of Pressure Hydrometallurgy at Fort Saskatchewan – by M. E. Chalkley, P. Cordingley, G. Freeman, J. Budac, R. Krentz and H. Scheie (Part 3 of 5)

History and Development of Cobalt Production

As Sherritt was developing the hydrometallurgical process for refining nickel, they were also faced with the question of how to separate cobalt from nickel, and then what to do with the cobalt.   The selection of hydrogen reduction technology to produce metallic nickel powder also provided Sherritt with a primary nickel-cobalt separation step.  As long as the ratio of nickel to cobalt is large, nickel can be selectively reduced with hydrogen without reducing cobalt.

The Lynn Lake concentrate, with typical ore grades of 10% nickel and 0.5% cobalt, yielded nickel reduction feed solution with relatively low cobalt content (nickel/cobalt ratio greater than 30:1).  Since the relatively small amount of nickel and cobalt remaining in the solution after nickel reduction could be precipitated from solution with hydrogen sulphide to yield a saleable intermediate nickel-cobalt sulphide product, development and construction of the nickel refinery was able to proceed without a final answer as to how to handle the cobalt.

Many alternative cobalt flowsheets were studied.  The Ottawa pilot plant was closed in 1955 and some of the pilot plant equipment was shipped to Fort Saskatchewan where it was used in the assembly of a “commercial sized” cobalt refinery.   Output of this plant, at less than 150 tonnes of cobalt per year, was so low that it was only utilized for commercial cobalt production for part of the year, and used for pilot scale development of other hydrometallurgical processes during the remainder of the year. Refining of nickel-cobalt sulphides, utilizing an acid leach of the sulphides, began on June 16, 1955.

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A History of Sherritt – Fifty Years of Pressure Hydrometallurgy at Fort Saskatchewan – by M. E. Chalkley, P. Cordingley, G. Freeman, J. Budac, R. Krentz and H. Scheie (Part 2 of 5)

THE FORT SASKATCHEWAN REFINERY

Commissioning

Leaching of concentrate started on May 24, 1954.  By June 19, the leach circuit was filled and by July 15 feed liquor was available for the metal recovery section.  On July 21, 1954, the first nickel metal was produced and met specifications.  The plant reached 90% of design capacity by the end of 1954 and operated at design capacity during 1955.

Ongoing Development of the Ammonia Leach Process

Through the years, as feed sources to the refinery changed and developments were made and implemented, the configuration of the leach stages and autoclaves was altered many times.  However, the basic function and operation of the ammonia leach has remained remarkably constant.  The dissolution of metal values combined with the simultaneous oxidation of sulphur forms the basis for the chemistry of the ammonia leach.

In the ammonia leach nickel, cobalt, copper and zinc are leached into solution.  Iron, if present in reactive form, upon dissolution is immediately hydrolysed and precipitated as hydrated iron oxide.  The iron oxide tailings are removed by thickening and filtration and discarded.  Sulphur chemistry is complex, as sulphur may exist as any of several intermediate oxidation states as well as the fully oxidized ammonium sulphate and sulphamate.

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A History of Sherritt – Fifty Years of Pressure Hydrometallurgy at Fort Saskatchewan – by M. E. Chalkley, P. Cordingley, G. Freeman, J. Budac, R. Krentz and H. Scheie (Part 1 of 5)

INTRODUCTION

The Beginning

In July 1927, Sherritt Gordon Mines Limited was incorporated, and named after Carl Sherritt and the Gordon family.  Carl Sherritt was an American citizen who worked as a teamster on the construction of the Hudson’s Bay railroad.  He later became a trapper and prospector and staked copper prospects in the Cold Lake area of Manitoba.  J. Peter Gordon was a civil engineer who also worked on the railroad construction and later became interested in mining developments in the area.

The formation of the company was largely due to the efforts of Eldon Brown, a young mining engineer, with the financial backing of Thayer and Halstead Lindsley and the Gordon family (1).

The Discovery of Nickel at Lynn Lake

In 1941, a Sherritt Gordon prospector named Austin McVeigh sampled an outcrop of sulphide-bearing rock near Lynn Lake that assayed 1.5% nickel and 1.0% copper (2).  It was wartime and Sherritt Gordon could neither afford the men nor the equipment necessary to stake and drill the area.  The discovery was kept secret until after the war.

In the summer of 1945, McVeigh started staking in a six mile square area which covered all of the known magnetic anomalies and McVeigh’s original nickel-copper find.  A diamond drill was flown in but drilling on the strongest magnetic anomalies found only magnetite.  In September, the drill was moved to test several weak magnetic anomalies close to Lynn Lake and by the end of the month, an intersection with good ore grade had been made.

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CANADIAN PERSPECTIVE: Republic Of Mining Chronicles Canadian Mining History -by Stan Sudol*

This column was posted today on the Canadian Mining Journal digital update.

The Web has forever changed the way we search for information. In today’s digitized world, most journalists, policy analysts, political leaders and the general public – especially students – turn to the Internet as their first source for facts.

Two major drawbacks to Internet searches seem to be the lack of content that is over a decade old because no one has bothered to post it or information that is deeply embedded in corporate websites. Blog postings, on the other hand, generally show up on Google searches much more readily.

In the final week of December, the annual Mining Person of the Year Award given by The Northern Miner is eagerly awaited by the industry. Since the first award was given in 1977, I was very surprised that I could not find much information about previous winners when I searched the Internet.

After contacting The Northern Miner about my concerns, publisher Doug Donnelly graciously allowed the RepublicOfMining.com to post all the previous Mining Person of the Year winners.

I have created a separate file in my blog’s index site located on the left hand side of the screen called “Northern Miner – Mining Person of the Year Award,” for easy access. Or just Google “Mining Person/Man of the Year” and the address will pop up at the top of the page.

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Excerpt from Michael Barnes New Book – More Than Free Gold:Mineral Exploration in Canada Since World War II

More Than Free Gold - by Michael Barnes

Canada is one of the most productive areas on earth for the discovery of economic mineral deposits. Its large land mass covers the entire spectrum of geological formations. These have been laid down and formed over the past four billion years.

Man has supplemented the bounty of nature’s contribution. Canada is fortunate to have individuals who have developed an infrastructure of financial capacity, educational facilities and scientific expertise that is a rich mix of human expertise and resources equal to or better than anywhere else in the world. These people have created Canada’s wealth through the careful exploitation of her mineral resources.

Prior to the beginning of the twentieth century, large-scale, economic, producing mines were largely nonexistent in Canada. Continue Reading →

Mine Money Triangle – By Leslie McFarlane (Maclean’s – April 15, 1938)

Inco Advertising 1939Prosperity, modernity, pioneer color and a relief problem
– You’ll find them all in the Big Three of Ontario mining

Considering Northern Ontario’s glittering triangle. At the apex, toward the eastern border of the province, lies Kirkland Lake; one hundred miles west and a little north, timmins; southward, along that invisible boundary that makes Ontario two provinces in one, Sudbury.

No communities in all of Canada are busier, none more prosperous. The same golden light shines on each. Close together geographically, speaking the same language of mines and mining in a score of tongues, with a common tradition of pioneer luck and labor and a common destiny in that their wealth is derived from the rock, it might seem that they would share a common personality. They don’t. They are too vital for that.

Each of the three communities is distinctive in its own right. Continue Reading →

CARROLL O. BRAWNER (BORN 1929) – 2008 Canadian Mining Hall of Fame Inductee

Carroll O. Brawner

The Canadian Mining Hall of Fame honours the mine finders and developers who helped develop our northern and rural regions and created enormous wealth for the country. For more exciting profiles on the individual who made Canada a global mining powerhouse, go to: http://www.halloffame.mining.ca/halloffame/

Carroll O. (“Chuck”) Brawner is known and respected worldwide for his contributions to open-pit mining and geotechnical engineering.

He earned his reputation as a foremost authority in these fields as the result of professional experience gained over half a century in no less than 40 nations and all the world’s continents, including Antarctica. In 1963, he co-founded a consulting firm that provided technical assistance to hundreds of open-pit mines and mineral projects in Canada and around the world. Golder Brawner and Associates subsequently evolved into Golder Associates, an internationally recognized firm with multi-disciplinary expertise. Continue Reading →

JOHANNES J. BRUMMER (1921-2005) – 2008 Canadian Mining Hall of Fame Inductee

Johannes J. Brummer

The Canadian Mining Hall of Fame honours the mine finders and developers who helped develop our northern and rural regions and created enormous wealth for the country. For more exciting profiles on the individual who made Canada a global mining powerhouse, go to: http://www.halloffame.mining.ca/halloffame/

Johannes J. (“Joe”) Brummer was one of Canada’s most accomplished exploration geologists. During a multi-faceted career that began with great promise in Africa’s Copper Belt and spanned five eventful decades in Canada, he continually pioneered the development of innovative exploration techniques in the fields of geochemistry, Pleistocene geology and geophysics. His openness to innovation and willingness to employ new and original exploration techniques and geological theories contributed to the discovery of at least 10 mines or mineral deposits on two continents.

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ERNEST CRAIG (1888-1960) – 2008 Canadian Mining Hall of Fame Inductee

Ernest Craig

ErnesThe Canadian Mining Hall of Fame honours the mine finders and developers who helped develop our northern and rural regions and created enormous wealth for the country. For more exciting profiles on the individual who made Canada a global mining powerhouse, go to: http://www.halloffame.mining.ca/halloffame/

t Craig was the first general manager of Falconbridge Nickel Mines, building a mine and a townsite in the late 1920s that became the foundation for the international powerhouse that now operates under the Xstrata banner. One of 12 children born in Kearney, Ont., Craig left school early in search of employment. He found his calling at age 19, when he began working in the emerging mining camps of Eastern Canada.

As he helped build and manage various mines, his talents caught the attention of the legendary mine-finder, Thayer Lindsley, who appointed him the first general manager of Falconbridge Nickel Mines in 1928, the year the company was founded. Continue Reading →

CHESTER F. MILLAR (BORN 1927) – 2008 Canadian Mining Hall of Fame Inductee

Chester Millar

The Canadian Mining Hall of Fame honours the mine finders and developers who helped develop our northern and rural regions and created enormous wealth for the country. For more exciting profiles on the individual who made Canada a global mining powerhouse, go to: http://www.halloffame.mining.ca/halloffame/

Chester Millar launched an illustrious career in the mining industry in the mid-1960s by discovering a copper-gold deposit that became the highly successful Afton mine, near Kamloops, B.C. He founded Afton Mines intending to develop his discovery, but the company was ultimately acquired on the open market by Teck Corp. (now Teck Cominco), which operated the open-pit mine from 1987 until its closure in 1997.

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DAVID A. THOMPSON (BORN 1939) – 2008 Canadian Mining Hall of Fame Inductee

David Thompson

The Canadian Mining Hall of Fame honours the mine finders and developers who helped develop our northern and rural regions and created enormous wealth for the country. For more exciting profiles on the individual who made Canada a global mining powerhouse, go to: http://www.halloffame.mining.ca/halloffame/

For more than a quarter century, David Thompson contributed to the spectacular growth and prudent financial management of two of Canada’s oldest continuously operating mining companies. In 1986, while vice-president of finance for Teck Corp., he helped structure a transaction in which Teck joined forces with foreign partners to buy 31% of Cominco Ltd. from Canadian Pacific for $280 million. The two companies merged in 2001 to form Teck Cominco, a world leader in the production of zinc and metallurgical coal and a major producer of copper, gold and specialty metals.

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