Weir, Dr. D.Robert

1994 Winner: Outstanding Contribution To The Alberta Science And Technology Community

Advancing Extractive Metallurgy

Dr. Weir joined Sherritt Gordon Mines in 1964 as Manager, Chemical Metallurgy Research. Today, he is Senior Vice-President of Sherritt and President of Westaim Technologies, the government-industry advanced materials consortium. During his career, Dr. Weir contributed significantly to the advancement of extractive metallurgy. From this and related work, some 43 patents and 30 technical papers bear his name. Dr. Weir also conceived the idea of a laboratory scale ‘miniplant’ which can be set up in only a few days and operated at significantly lower cost than conventional pilot plants, but that yields test data that is suitable for set-up purposes.

Miniplant testing has become indispensable to large projects at Sherritt and is being emulated in 10 countries, including South Africa, Brazil and Papua New Guinea. In 1985, Dr. Weir was given the Sherritt Hydrometallurgy Award, an award he helped establish in 1976 to recognize significant contributions in the field of hydrometallurgy. In 1989, he received the prestigious Airey Award of the Canadian Institute of Mining and Metallurgy for his contributions to process metallurgy. He became director the Alberta Research Council in the same year, and of the Alberta Laser Institute in 1990. Yet Dr. Weir’s most significant contribution might well be his efforts to bring industry and government together in research and development consortium known as Westaim Technologies Inc.

On August 4, 1989 the Government of Canada, the Province of Alberta, and Sherritt Inc. announced that $140 million would be made available over a five year period for research, development and commercialization of advanced industrial materials. New state-of-the-art facilities made it possible to recruit more than 100 new scientists, engineers and support personnel from nine different countries. The research and development infrastructure being developed at Westaim will attract advanced materials manufacturing to Alberta, resulting in the creation of thousands of new, high quality jobs. Westaim has developed strong ties with the University of Alberta, and the University of Calgary. Dozens of individual links exist with other industrial, university and government laboratories across Canada. Dr. Weir’s vision, innovative spirit and managerial skills have helped make both Sherritt and Westaim eminent in their fields worldwide.