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Metals separation processes

Wasyl Kunda’s name is attached to a variety of patents related to processes for hydrometallurgy and powder metallurgy developed by Sherritt Gordon.
Kunda’s contributions in hydrometallurgy include the development of the ammonia pressure leaching system for nickel ore processing, and methods to recover nickel and other metals from laterite ores.

Kunda, working with Vladimir Mackiw, Frank Forward and others, developed the ammonia leach process to recover nickel from sulphide ores. In that process, nickel sulphide solutions, created by pressure acid leaching of ore concentrates, are combined with ammonia and oxygen under pressure; hydrogen gas is then introduced to the soluble nickel ammonia complex ions, and metallic nickel is then precipitated from the process. The byproduct of this process, ammonium sulphate, became the basis for Sherritt Gordon’s subsequent fertilizer operations.

This process, known as the Sherritt Gordon process, helped the Fort Saskatchewan nickel operation become a successful operation. The process also became a widely used industry standard for nickel recovery from sulphide solutions. It has been used for metallic nickel production in Australia and other nickel production centres.

The development of powder metallurgy processes by Kunda and others at Sherritt Gordon helped the firm expand into specialized metal products like coin blanks and other metal forms. Kunda’s contributions in this research area date back to the 1950s, and his patents over the years show increasing sophistication.

A 1975 patent for cobalt composite powders visualized an outer film of cobalt or nickel surrounding a smaller inner particle. Sherritt Gordon has been producing specialized cobalt powders as an adjunct to its nickel refinery for decades. In the 1990s, a separate cobalt refinery plant was developed, which helped it tap into the market for cobalt powders used as coatings for specialty carbide tools and other sophisticated instruments.

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