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Bert Wasmund has been a world-renowned leader in metallurgical plant engineering and design for more than 40 years, as well as a driving force in the growth and success of Hatch Ltd., a Canadian firm serving the global mining and metallurgical industry. He is credited with a series of breakthrough contributions to metallurgical operations in Canada and abroad that improved their productivity, cost and energy efficiencies, capability to extract valuable products from lower grade ores and environmental performance in many cases. He has demonstrated a lifelong commitment to the acquisition and mentorship of the next generation of engineers. This leadership has helped to attract a new generation to the mining and metallurgical industry and provided young professionals with interesting and challenging careers.
Bert Wasmund was born in Bancroft, Ont., and earned his B.Sc and M.Sc degrees in Chemical Engineering from Queen’s University in 1961 and 1963, respectively, followed by a PhD, Chemical Engineering, from the University of Toronto in 1966. He then joined Hatch Ltd., a pioneer company with a staff of 40, where he became known for his technical skills and innovative approach to metallurgical and mineral processing challenges. Most noteworthy was his development in 1973 of technology using solid copper cooling elements for cooling the walls of the smelting furnaces in the Falconbridge (now Xstrata) Falcondo ferronickel smelter in the Dominican Republic. This patented technology greatly enhanced the productivity, lifespan and energy efficiency of the Falcondo furnaces and later became the cornerstone of Hatch’s thriving custom-design furnace business, with more than 100 installations in smelters worldwide.
In 1989, Bert Wasmund and the Hatch team revolutionized the platinum smelting business with the design of a new electric smelting furnace for Impala Platinum in South Africa, which tripled daily production and reduced energy requirements by 25%. This remarkable achievement led to the development of many new plants in South Africa, Canada and other parts of the world, and also earned Dr. Wasmund the 1994 Falconbridge Innovation Award by the Canadian Institute of Mining, Metallurgy and Petroleum and its prestigious Airey Award in 1998. His contributions to the environmental progress of Canada’s mining and metals industry are among his finest achievements, notably in Ontario’s Sudbury nickel district, where he led in innovating the technology systems for the sulphur dioxide abatement programs of nickel producers Falconbridge and Inco (now Vale) in the 1970s and 80s. Working in collaboration with the Falconbridge operating team, he implemented a strategy to replace outdated blast furnaces with a new smelting process using fluid-bed roasters and electric furnaces thereby dramatically improving air quality and the surrounding environment and greatly minimizing the vexing problem of acid rain. Other Canadian smelting complexes followed this strategy with great success. Today Dr. Wasmund continues to mentor scientists and engineers focused on solving major industrial challenges, including the development of renewable energy sources for future generations.