Excerpt reprinted with permission from Hatch. Original press release from Hatch February 3, 2022
Dr. Wasmund built a legacy as a pioneer in the mining and metals industry and a lifelong mentor
Dr. Wasmund was raised on a family farm in rural Ontario. After graduating from high school, he worked for over a year in the metallurgical laboratory of Bicroft Uranium Mines, where he was encouraged by their chief chemist to study chemical engineering.
Dr. Wasmund heeded the advice, studying chemical engineering at Queen’s University, earning his B.Sc. and M.Sc. degrees in 1961 and 1963. Upon obtaining his Ph.D. from the University of Toronto in 1966, Dr. Wasmund joined Hatch and soon became known for his strong technical skills and innovative approach for solving long-standing industrial problems. Most noteworthy was his 1973 invention of technology for protecting the walls of smelting furnaces using solid copper elements, which greatly enhanced their productivity, life span, and energy efficiency. This patented technology was first used by Falconbridge at its Falcondo nickel-smelting complex in the Dominican Republic and later became the cornerstone of Hatch’s thriving custom-design furnace business, which continues to this day with more than 200 installations worldwide.
In the 1970s and 80s, Dr. Wasmund was recognized for his contributions to the environmental progress in the mining industry for his work in Sudbury’s nickel district. First, he and the Falconbridge team implemented a strategy to replace outdated blast furnaces with a new smelting process using electric furnaces and fluid-bed roasters, from which the sulphur dioxide was converted to saleable acid. Together with a similar SO2 Abatement program implemented later at Inco, the air quality dramatically improved, and the vexing acid-rain problem was virtually eliminated.
In 1989, Dr. Wasmund and the Hatch team revolutionized the platinum smelting business with the design of an electric smelting furnace for Impala Platinum in South Africa, which resulted in tripling daily production and reducing energy requirements by 25 percent, thereby greatly improving their competitiveness.
“Bert was a major building block in the development, growth, and evolution of Hatch. He has been our technical “godfather” for decades and the catalyst behind most of the technologies that Hatch is known for. He was the epitome of a true professional and extremely active in our industry, supporting the success of many clients and industry partners, initially in Canada, and then around the world,” shared John Bianchini, Hatch’s CEO and Chairman.
Dr. Wasmund’s numerous successful innovations have gained wide recognition and awards, including the prestigious Noranda Airey Award in 1998, induction into the Canadian Mining Hall of Fame in 2011, the pre-eminent Ontario Professional Engineer’s Gold Medal in 2012, and inclusion into the Order of Canada in 2017. Just this past year, in 2021, Dr. Wasmund received the Selwyn Blaylock Canadian Mining Excellence Award from the Canadian Institute of Mining, Metallurgy and Petroleum.
Though known for his many accomplishments and technical expertise, those lucky enough to have worked with Dr. Wasmund would agree that perhaps his most significant contribution to Hatch may have been his passion for mentorship. Through his commitment to train, guide, and support innumerable colleagues throughout the years, Dr. Wasmund helped develop future generations of experts who will carry on his legacy and commitment to engineering excellence. Until recently, Dr. Wasmund could still be found working daily and could always be relied on to be seen enjoying lunch and conversation with young colleagues, regaling them with stories and sharing with them his expertise amassed over a long and lustrous career.
Throughout his successful academic and professional career, Dr. Wasmund has never lost sight of how his ancestral roots shaped his career. The Wasmund Family Memorial Scholarship named to honor his parents, reflects the family’s values and provides the graduates with great opportunities to improve their communities.
A similar Wasmund Family Aboriginal Scholars Award was established in 2011 that provides funding for worthy Indigenous students to earn honorary four-year degrees and achieve the highest level of academic accomplishment.