Cyanco expands its capacity at Winnemucca |

Cyanco expands its capacity at Winnemucca

Rob Sabo

Cyanco recently completed yet another expansion of its cyanide-production plant at Winnemucca after strong sales throughout North America drove the need to increase production.

Cyanco increased its cyanide production capacity about 25 percent to 240 million pounds annually to support Nevada mining operations and growing business outside the U.S., says President Jeff Davis, who joined Cyanco in April after longtime executive John Burrows retired.

Some of Cyanco’s growth is from new projects coming online in Nevada, strong growth in Canada, as well as new projects south of the border in Mexico, which is the fastest-growing market internationally for gold mining, Davis says.

Much of the expansion involved alleviating production bottlenecks to increase output. Cyanco has pretty much achieved maximum capacity with its two lines, and any future increases in production would involve building a third line, Davis says. Work began in a series of steps over the last eight months and was performed mostly by Cyanco’s Winnemucca team.

Cyanco’s products are used in heap-leach mining operations common throughout Nevada gold mines. Ore is heaped hundreds of feet high on leach pads and soaked with a cyanide solution that leaches precious metals from the rock.

The company, which is headquartered at Pearland, Texas, employs 40 fulltime workers in Winnemucca, with many longtime employees. It also utilizes a large logistics fleet of about 25 drivers through its transportation partner, TransWood of Omaha, Neb., which maintains a dedicated terminal in Winnemucca.

Cyanco began making cyanide in Winnemucca in 1990 and produced about 28 million pounds annually. After adding a second production line in 1997, the facility produced more than 100 million pounds of cyanide each year and has since passed the 2-billion-pound production mark without a single transportation issue, Davis says.

“Every piece of our supply chain, from the factory to the loading to the trucks, to the warehouse and the mines has to independently certified,” Davis says. “If it’s not handled properly it is a potentially dangerous product, but we really try to dispel those concerns because there is so much emphasis placed on proper handling. It is actually quite safe.”

TransWood hauls liquid cyanide to its Nevada customers, but solid sodium-cyanide briquettes shipped north of the United States are transported by rail to a hub at Rouyn-Noranda in Quebec before being hauled via truck to Canadian customers. It has the same type of operation in Sonora, Mexico.

Davis says many of Cyanco’s production workers and plant operators have been with the company for years and possess a highly specialized skill set. The plant runs continuously.

“For a chemical plant operator, the process is pretty automated and run from a control board. It’s a complicated process and they have to process a lot of information and make decisions very quickly. It’s not something you can learn at a vocational or technical school — you have to bring them up through the process.”

Davis says the Winnemucca plant by itself ranks among the world’s leading producers of cyanide solution, and Cyanco has a second production plant in Houston. Due to its proximity to Nevada’s gold mines the plant always will be an integral part of Cyanco’s strategic growth, he adds.

“If Nevada stays strong like it is, and Mexico continues to grow, we will need to more capacity in the next three to four years,” he says.