The currently practised laterite process technologies are pyrometallurgical – such as NPI, FeNi and matte smelting – or hydrometallurgical; in particular, high-pressure acid leaching (HPAL), which Sherritt is known around the world for. At the industrial scale, process technology development has been incremental rather than radical, despite numerous studies by the industry and academia. However, pyrometallurgical and hydrometallurgical processing are not economically equal, each approach operating optimally on distinct and different ore composition, with smelting processes being more sensitive to energy cost and the HPAL process being more sensitive to product costs.
Sherritt is continuously on the lookout for technology options that optimize its current practices, while also giving consideration to novel process options that promise greater resource utilization, a lower environmental footprint, and competitive capital and operating cost. From its Technologies hub in Fort Saskatchewan, Sherritt reaches out to a global network of technology partners, complementing its in-house technology development programs.