Tuesday, January 22, 2008
Howard Bashman was kind enough to send me the Federal Circuit's decision yesterday in Metchem, Inc. v. United States, No. 2007-1138 (Fed. Cir. 1/22/08):
The subject merchandise is known commercially as basic nickel carbonate. It is obtained from the Yabulu Nickel Refinery in Queensland, Australia. MetChem, Inc. (“MetChem”) imports it into the United States and is the only known customer of the basic nickel carbonate produced at Yabulu.
The material is a product of what is known as the Caron process, a hydro-metallurgical process of refining laterite ore into nickel metal sinters. The first steps of the Caron process involve the drying and roasting of the laterite ore, followed by a leaching of the ore with an ammonia solution that dissolves around fifty percent of the cobalt in the ore. At that point, the ore has been liquefied into a solution of dissolved nickel and cobalt and is treated with hydrogen sulfide to further separate the cobalt from the nickel. The remaining nickel-containing solution is distilled to drive off ammonia and carbon dioxide. The nickel content of the material is between fifty-two and fifty-five percent.
Separated from the subject material, the majority of the chemically processed ore at the Yabulu factory continues along the Caron process. The material that remains in the Caron process is calcined, reduced, compacted, and sintered, which leads to nickel oxide sinters. Those additional processes increase the percentage of nickel in the product from around fifty-five percent at the stage in which the basic nickel carbonate is removed from the Caron process, to over ninety percent when in sinter form. The nickel oxide sinters are sold for use in the production of stainless steel and other alloys.