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Success with Safety: Wesseling’s Cyanide Plant Turns 50


CyPlus GmbH’s cyanide plant in Wesseling is celebrating its fiftieth anniversary. “From its early days in 1957, Wesseling has developed into our most important production site,” pointed out CyPlus’s managing director Frank Harenburg at an event for employees, customers, and suppliers to mark the occasion. CyPlus, a wholly owned subsidiary of Degussa GmbH, is one of the world’s leading cyanide companies.

CyPlus supplies cyanides to customers in the mining, chemical, pharmaceutical, and surface-finishing industries. The most important application of cyanides worldwide is in the recovery of gold from ore. In Wesseling, its largest production site, CyPlus employs 40 persons. The capacity of the plant, which was just a few metric tons at its opening 50 years ago, has been increasing steadily over the years. “Since June 1957 we’ve produced a total of one million metric tons in Wesseling, which is twice as much as today’s global annual requirement,” estimates Harenburg. Other important production facilities exist in North America.

Profitable Cyanide Chemistry
The beginnings of the RAG-subsidiary, Degussa, are closely linked to cyanide chemistry. As early as 1864, one of its predecessor companies in Frankfurt was producing potassium cyanide for electroplating, among other applications. Sodium cyanide production then started in 1891. Right from the start, the cyanide was used for gold recovery, initially in South Africa and subsequently in the U.S. As Harenburg says: “Today, we are a company that has been supplying this industry worldwide for over a hundred years.” Cyanide is also used in electroplating and hardening as well as in organic synthesis, for example, for pharmaceuticals. Sodium cyanide production began in Wesseling in on June 21, 1957. In 2003 Degussa spun off the business into CyPlus GmbH, headquartered in Hanau.

Safety and Protection
For CyPlus, the path to long-term commercial success lies also in protecting people and the environment. “From production, through handling of products by the customer, to their disposal, safety is an integral component of our business policy. In CyPlus, mining companies have an expert partner who handles cyanides responsibly and offers them support,” says Harenburg. Proven transportation and logistics concepts, customer training for safe handling of the toxic material, and protective detoxification and analytical processes are all part of the package, and are used internationally.

The company also sets great store by safety at its own sites. Following a review of the Wesseling plant, CyPlus obtained International Cyanide Management Code certification in 2006, confirming that the company is producing cyanides in compliance with the best-practice guidelines of the Code. Additionally, CyPlus’s business activities worldwide have received the internationally recognized ISO 9001:2000 and ISO 14001 certification from the Deutsche Gesellschaft zur Zertifizierung von Managementsystemen [German Society for Certification of Management Systems]. In 2005 CyPlus’s sophisticated and globally used Cyanide Management System won the Mining Magazine Award. The following year the company placed second in the Responsible Care Award of the European Chemical Industry Council.


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