Vladimir Mackiw’s life is an outstanding example of how the Canadian mining industry discovers and applies advanced and innovative technologies to create processes and products adding new wealth not only to Canada’s economy but also for the rest of the world.
His accomplishments as a scientist, an inventor and industrialist are demonstrated daily in some 25 commercial plants around the world which use the technologies developed by the research team he created and led in the Sherritt organization.
Evidence of his highly-productive almost half-century professional career at Sherritt includes: the large complex appropriately named the “Mackiw Materials Centre” in Fort Saskatchewan, Alberta; a lengthy list of 45 patents; and a library of over 50 published technical papers of which he is author or co-author. All this scientific progress is related to extractive metallurgy, hydrometallurgy and powder metallurgy.
Vladimir Mackiw enjoyed the rare pleasure of inventing and developing a process, carrying it forward through pilot plant testing, then into design and commissioning of a commercial plant and finally managing continuing operations. Canada’s mining industry gave him that opportunity over and over again and he seized it.
Early in his career, he collaborated with the late Professor Frank Forward of the University of British Columbia in defining the optimum conditions for pressure leaching of nickel-cobalt sulphide concentrates in ammoniacal solutions. His team worked out the chemistry for separating nickel from the cobalt and then the optimum conditions for recovering nickel and cobalt as powders using hydrogen reduction.
Further intense research in powder metallurgy led to development of powder rolling processes for production of coins and specialty composite powders for abradable seals on jet engines. A composite alloy was developed for Canada’s ubiquitous one dollar coin.
Developments in acid pressure leaching of gold ores and nickel-cobalt oxide ores together with pressure leaching of zinc and copper sulphides were among his contributions in extractive metallurgy.
The pioneering work of his research group established pressure hydrometallurgical process technology as both clean and economical for nickel, cobalt, copper, zinc, refractory gold and uranium.
Born in Stanislawiw, Western Ukraine, he studied at the Universities of Breslau and Erlangen, Germany, obtaining an M.Sc. in Chemistry in 1948 and continued with post-graduate studies at the University of Louvain in Belgium. He came to Canada in 1948. His first job was in Winnipeg as a chemist for a gold mine. After a short stopover with the Manitoba Bureau of Mines, he moved to Ottawa to join Sherritt-Gordon Mines where he rose rapidly from Research Chemist to Executive Vice-President. His wide-ranging responsibilities included the metals division, nickel and cobalt refineries, rolling mill and coinage products, special metal and chemical products, technology licensing, the research centre and engineering and maintenance services.
His outstanding contributions to the nickel, cobalt and copper industries and to science were recognized internationally and reflected by a lengthy list of awards and honours from scientific, academic and industry organizations in Canada, the United States, France and Britain.