Gordon Malcolm Ritcey

May 17, 1930February 15, 2021
Obituary of Gordon Malcolm Ritcey
Gordon grew up in Halifax in the years before and during the Second World War, coming from a family that has a long standing relationship with the Atlantic - his forebearers first arrived in Nova Scotia in the 1750s. That family included lighthouse keepers, captains and crew of fishing schooners and members of lifesaving teams who rowed boats into the Atlantic to rescue people from craft in distress. From their early youth, Gordon and his sister Virginia spent many summers on the Nova Scotia coast near the town of Digby. The war ended before he came of age, and after musing about a career in music, he went on to study chemistry at Halifax's Dalhousie University. It was there that he developed an organic molecule that could be used to extract tin from powdered rock from tin mining, introducing him to a field of applied research that would later become known as Solvent Extraction, and in which he would become a pioneer of international renown. THE NORTH and MARRIAGE Following his studies at Dalhousie, he accepted a position as Chief Chemist at the uranium mine located in the Port Radium settlement on Great Bear Lake, Northwest Territories. During the years 1952 to 1957, he used that position to apply his growing understanding of solvent extraction, and amid the enchantment of the North, met his future wife Gladys. Gladys and Gordon remained together for 52 years, from their marriage in July 1955 to her passing in February 2007. They explored the shores of Great Bear Lake together, hiking, fishing, ice sailing and sometimes, flying north beyond the Arctic Circle with their friend Max Ward, who later expanded his one-plane operation to form Canada's Wardair. Gordon and Gladys left their beloved north country in 1957 for Ottawa, where Gordon would work as a research scientist, first for Eldorado Mining & Refining Limited and then for the federal government (Energy, Mines and Resources), where he was Senior Research Scientist and Head of Hydrometallurgy until 1988. He then "retired" to become an independent consultant, a role in which he remained active until his mid-eighties. TECHNICAL LIFE In his work life he poured himself into the use of solvent extraction for the recovery of metals from various ores including those of uranium, rare earths, cobalt, copper, nickel, zinc, zirconium, gold, platinum and palladium at metallurgical processing plants around the world. Over a period of 65 years, he became known as one of the world's foremost solvent extraction authorities. He was the founding editor of the technical publication "Journal of Hydrometallurgy", and remained editor for 19 years; the journal is still published today, 45 years later. He contributed (as an organizer or presenter) to almost every one of the International Solvent Extraction Conference (ISEC) meetings that have occurred around the world since the inception of the organization in 1962. He was instrumental in the creation of a Hydrometallurgy group (hydrometallurgy is a more general branch of solvent extraction) of the Canadian Institute of Mining and Metallurgy (CIM). Today, the CIM presents the Gordon M. Ritcey award annually to honour the accomplishments of a PhD graduate student in the field of hydrometallurgy in a Canadian university. In 1997 Gordon founded and organized a series of non-profit, invitation-only workshops that brought a group of international scientists to Canada every three years to discuss their research and findings in the field of solvent extraction. In 1979 he authored the first comprehensive book on solvent extraction, and later published an updated edition in 2007. His work also extended into research on measures to reduce the risks and impact from wastes that result from mining. He also published a seminal text on the management and treatment of metallurgical processing wastes ("tailings"), which remains in demand to date. It was recently published at and has already attracted thousands of downloads. He contributed chapters to various other books and has authored or co-authored hundreds of technical papers on solvent extraction as well as tailings management. He was a sole or key contributor to patents involving solvent extraction, filed on behalf of the Canadian government. During his career he was called to lecture, design metallurgical processes or troubleshoot solvent extraction issues on every continent except Antarctica. He was seconded from the federal government many times to do work on behalf of the United Nations, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the Australian Atomic Energy Commission (AAEC) and the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA). He paused his technical efforts in 1993 to work on a thesis for the University of Melbourne in Australia, leading to the award of a Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) degree. In 1999, he was appointed Adjunct Professor of the Department of Metallurgical Engineering, Curtin University, Kalgoorlie Western Australia and, in that capacity, acted as a supervisor or mentor to staff and several PhD students. Gordon received numerous technical honours, including being the first recipient of the Sherritt Gordon Hydrometallurgy Medal (in recognition of notable contributions to research and for developing and promoting hydrometallurgy in Canada and abroad), the Alcan Medal (for major contributions to the application of solvent extraction in process metallurgy), the CIM Silver Medal (in recognition of contribution and leadership in the development and maintenance of the Metallurgical Society of CIM), the University of Liege (Belgium) Medal (for outstanding contributions to solvent extraction), the Mendeleev Medal (Russia) and the ISEC Carl Hanson Medal (for achievements in solvent extraction and development of processes for the recovery and separation of metals). One of the honours that he appreciated most may have been the 2018 symposium dedicated as the “Gordon Ritcey Symposium on Advances in Hydrometallurgical Solution Purification Separations” and organized by the Hydrometallurgy section of the Canadian Institute of Mining & Metallurgy. Held in Ottawa, it brought scientists from around the world who recalled his technical accomplishments and, more important to him, their appreciation of his role as a colleague, or in some cases mentor, and always, friend. LATER YEARS Although Gordon was always active, he seemed to become more so as life went on. He learned to curl and play badminton at the Port Radium mine site on Great Bear Lake; later in Ottawa, he learned to swim, to downhill ski and honed his sailing skills in small boats on the Ottawa River. Following the loss of Gladys, he began to swim and bike regularly; in 2015 at the age of 85, he could swim a kilometre and bike 20 kilometres. Sometimes both in the same day. He wasn't the quickest person in the water or on the road - but he had stamina and a determined perseverance. That stamina served him well in his travels, on his first journey to Europe with his wife Gladys and young son Douglas in 1966, on his many trips to Australia, Europe, Brazil, Cuba, Egypt and elsewhere, often with Gladys or Doug, on his many ISEC conferences around the world, and, after the passing of Gladys, during his travels to Europe with his friend Irene. In his later years he met his partner Josée in Nova Scotia, and they embarked on a series of annual, lengthy summer trips to southern, central and northern Europe - a world of new adventures. Although Gordon maintained his Ottawa home for over 60 years, he has spent parts or all of his summers at his family's home in Bay View, Nova Scotia - first with Gladys and later, with Josée. When he passed away, due to heart and kidney disease, it was in his Bay View home, on the land where in his youth, he had spent summers with his sister Virginia and his parents and grandparents, looking out over the waters of the Atlantic. In his final time he was cared for at home by Josée, and in his last weeks also accompanied by Doug. Before he left us he received emails, calls and messages from his sister and other relatives, from neighbours and from friends and colleagues around the world, many of them recalling the influence he had on their lives, and the friendships that they shared together. DEPARTURE - AND LINKS A funeral service will be held at 2:30 p.m. on Sunday, February 21st at Bay View United Church, Bay View. It is the church and cemetery where Gladys now rests, along with his parents, grandparents, great grandparents and other relatives. Gordon was embarked on an autobiography at the time of his passing and it will be completed and formatted by his son Douglas. In time, photos of Gordon's life, as well as sections of his autobiography, will be posted on his website at You can share a memory or leave an online condolence on this page; if you wish to make a donation, you can donate to a GoFundMe web page at that was created following Gordon's passing. All donations on that web page will go to the maintenance of the Bayview United Church cemetery, where even small amounts have an appreciable effect on the resources available for maintenance of that historic property.

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Sunday, February 21, 2021

Funeral Service