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A Conversation with Roy Norcross, Director Applied Technology

Q:      Roy, you’ve been with Cyanco for over 30 years. How did you get started along this professional path?

A:         I’ve been working on the enhancement of cyanide leaching and the destruction of cyanide since 1986, primarily as it relates to the extraction of gold from ore, using cyanide as a reagent.

I started my career as a research chemist at Enthone, an electroplating chemical company owned by Asarco. From there I moved into the pharmaceuticals field. It was during that time that someone left a want ad on my benchtop for a job posting at Degussa. With a footprint in both pharma and metals, Degussa seemed like a perfect match for me! They were hiring for their new mining group, with a focus on peroxygen technology for the purpose of lixiviation and detoxification. I was lucky enough to get the job.

My first assignment was to put together a lab while Degussa’s peroxide plant was being built in Mobile, Alabama. Over the next few years, Degussa went through a lot of changes, eventually becoming Evonik which spun off its North American mining business under CyPlus.

In 1992 we merged our cyanide business with Cyanco, taking advantage of Nevada’s gold and silver mining sector, which was on a massive growth trajectory. The rest is history!

Q:      Did you originally study to become a chemist?

A:         I actually graduated with a double major in Art AND Chemistry. While this might seem like a strange combination, it all connects back to my origins as a photographer. As a college student, I made money taking photos for school brochures and the yearbook, which helped me pay for my education. I was also the photo editor for the college paper and did wedding photography on the side.

It was in the lab, developing my negatives, that I began to appreciate chemistry. The first time I got silver nitrite stains on my fingers, I knew that working with metals would be my future ‘thing’ one way or another!

Q:      How have things changed since you joined Cyanco all those years ago?

A:         Over the years, Cyanco has continued to invest to keep pace with customer demand, including the addition of new manufacturing capacity and the expansion of our global distribution circuit. Today we are the world’s largest supplier of sodium cyanide – and the only chemical manufacturer that exclusively serves the precious metal mining industry. Cyanco has also invested in its customer service model, creating the Applied Technology team (my team) with a single-minded focus on cyanide and every stage of the cyanidation process. We look at the entire circuit holistically, from logistics to handling to leaching optimization all the way through to detoxification and closure.

Q:      What do you like most about your job today?

A:         We’re always looking to do things better…always developing new ways to extract gold and silver more efficiently and effectively. Because we work with every single aspect of our product, and at every stage of its lifecycle, we have an intimate understanding of the entire mining circuit, as well as our customers’ challenges. I really like the sense of partnership we have with customers in solving their problems and getting them to their highest levels of production and profitability.

Q:      What are some of your customers’ biggest challenges?

A:        Concerns over uninterrupted cyanide supply can be a big one. Gold and silver mines can’t run out of sodium cyanide. They just can’t – or they have to shut down production. Cyanco has four independent manufacturing lines in two different locations, which ensures redundancy of supply, so we never stock out our customers. Even during COVID, we never once missed a shipment. Cyanco also offers a Vendor Managed Inventory (VMI) service, which ensures customers’ cyanide levels never get too low.

Safety is another huge concern. Let’s face it: the stakes are incredibly high in both the mining and industrial chemical industries. If something goes wrong with our product, people can get hurt. That’s why Cyanco is 100% invested in the safe manufacture and delivery of sodium cyanide – as well as the safe use and handling of cyanide at each customer site.

As a founding signatory of the International Cyanide Management Code (ICMC), Cyanco is an industry leader in making sure the cyanidation process is implemented as safely as possible across the globe. We also help customers achieve and maintain their own ICMC accreditation. You’re not going to get that from the competition.

Q:      Besides safety and security of supply, what do customers worry most about?

A:        Really two things: costs and sustainability. On the cost side, Cyanco helps customers optimize cyanide use with our online analyzer technology. Automated readings throughout the circuit ensure proper cyanide dosage – avoiding the additional raw material costs associated with overdosing, and the operational inefficiencies related to underdosing, such as lower yields.

Regarding sustainability, Cyanco offers several different processes for detoxification. We engage with customers to design and implement the most cost-effective detoxification systems, best suited to their mines’ specific characteristics. (Of course, in addition to destroying the residual cyanide left in mine effluent and tailings, implementing best safety practices and maintaining ICMC compliance are also critical aspects of a mine’s sustainability performance.)

We’re currently field testing a new analyzer technology, with the goal of further customizing our Cyanide Control Systems (CCS®– CNFREE and CCS®– CNWAD), giving our customers additional options for how best to process and detoxify their ore, respectively.

Q:      Can you tell us more about the new analyzer technology and its benefits?

A:        The new colorimetric technology produces an endpoint based on color intensity, as opposed to more traditional methods that produce a potentiometric endpoint (measuring electric potential). As we continue to put the colorimetric technology through its paces, we really like what we see – and are hoping for a relatively straightforward commercialization process.

As our testing progresses, the new colorimetric technology is showing a potential advantage for analyzing more complex ores (i.e. those containing a higher diversity of metal and sulfur species). So far, the colorimetric option is producing quick results that are free from interferences under most circumstances.

It appears to be a great potential addition to our CCS®– CNFREE and CCS®– CNWAD analytical portfolio – more to come soon!

Q:      What’s the most important thing customers should know about Cyanco?

A:         Cyanco is here to establish true partnerships with our customers. We want to make sure we can help them along every step of the way, including the areas we know right now – and other potential areas where we might be of service in the future. Drop us a line to let us know how we can help you

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