Tag Archives | War and Nickel

Inco’s Sudbury Nickel Mines were Critical During World War Two (Part 6 of 7) – by Stan Sudol

Roger Whittle’s Amazing Invention – the Jet Engine

The successful development of British-born Roger Whittle’s amazing invention, the jet turbine engine was integrally linked to Inco’s metallurgical expertise with high temperature nickel alloys.

In the early 1940s, at the request of Britain’s Air Ministry, company scientists worked furiously to solve the problem of appropriate materials for emerging designs in jet and gas turbine engines. The Germans were also working on their own version of a jet engine the Messerschmitt Me 262.

One of the most noted contributions during the war was the invention of a new alloy for jet-propelled aircraft engines by International Nickel metallurgists from the Henry Wiggin & Company Ltd. facilities in Birmingham.

This new alloy called “Nimonic 80” allowed the jet engine’s turbine parts, particularly the blades, to operate for long periods under tremendous stress, high heat and corrosive exhaust without deforming or melting. This new alloy was superior to German aircraft technology. The first British airplane outfitted with the new engine was the Meteor which first flew in 1943 and was finally approved for the air force in July, 1944.

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Inco’s Sudbury Nickel Mines were Critical During World War Two (Part 2 of 7) – by Stan Sudol

Inco World War Two PosterIncreased Nickel Production

In 1941 the Allied governments asked the company to increase production. International Nickel complied by committing $35 million to expand nickel output by 50 million pounds above 1940 production levels, reaching this goal by 1943 without any government subsidies. However, the Canadian government did allow the company to amortize within a five-year period, instead of ten or twenty years, $25 million worth of expansion expenditures.

That enormous task fell to American-born Ralph Parker, who at the time was the general superintendent of the mining and smelting division at Sudbury. It was one of Mr. Parker’s greatest achievements to organize the enormous program of enlarging the Sudbury mining and plant facilities without any loss of production.

To increase production of extraordinary war-time demands, Mr. Parker had to resort to “high-grading” which entails using above average ore grades and leaving behind lower grades that would have normally contributed to a longer, more profitable mine life. There was a real fear that the company would use up most of its reserves and have little to mine after the war.

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Inco’s Sudbury Nickel Mines were Critical During World War Two (Part 1 of 7) – by Stan Sudol

Inco World War Two PosterNickel Was the Most Strategic Metal

By anyone’s estimation, the highlight of Sudbury’s social calendar in 1939 was the visit of King George VI and Queen Elizabeth on June 5th, accompanied by Prime Minister Mackenzie King and a host of local dignitaries. This was the first time a reigning British monarch had ever visited Canada, let alone Sudbury, a testimony to the growing importance of the region’s vital nickel mines. The nickel operations in the Sudbury Basin were booming due to growing global tensions and increased spending on military budgets. Sudbury and the northeastern Ontario gold mining centres of Timmins and Kirkland Lake were among the few economic bright spots in a country devastated by the Great Depression.

In an April 15, 1938 article, Maclean’s Magazine journalist Leslie McFarlane described the three mining communities as, “Northern Ontario’s glittering triangle….No communities in all of Canada are busier, none more prosperous. The same golden light shines on each.”

During the royal visit, precedence was broken by allowing Queen Elizabeth the first female ever to go underground at the Frood Mine. Traditionally miners thought women would bring bad luck if they were permitted underground. There were probably many who thought the beginning of the Second World War on September 1, 1939 was the result of her subterranean visit.

The German invasion of Poland was to have dramatic effects on Sudbury. Many communities across Canada, Britain and the United States played exceptional roles in producing certain commodities and munitions for the war effort. However, it would be no exaggeration to say that in North America, Sudbury was among the top few communities that were absolutely critical to the war effort. Continue Reading →