It is with regret that we have learned of the death of Jacques Astier on 20 May. Jacques was born in Dijon, France on January 3, 1923.
After graduating from the Ecole Centrale in 1948, after a delay in entering due to the war, he joined the French research metallurgy institute IRSID where he was given the task of creating a department for the study of iron and steelmaking with an emphasis of trials beyond the laboratory at iron and steel producers. The work involved optimising blast furnace operations using the local low grade French ores.
To progress this work he spent a year in the United States to study reduction in a rotary hearth furnaces in an attempt to reduce coke consumption, a method the United States Bureau of Mines had shown could produce direct reduced iron at lower temperatures than the blast thus reducing coke consumption. A spell in Wyoming USA enabled him to gain a strong command of English, something lacking by many French engineers at this time.
Returning to France he investigated direct reduction of French ores and agglomeration of the ore, the latter being an area where he has played a major role, first by developing a tank simulator for determining the characteristics of the process at a pilot scale, and then persuading those responsible for the French steel industry – which were then very reluctant and considered agglomeration too costly and not very interesting – to adopt agglomeration which resulted in a revolution in economic and technical development in ironmaking.
Jacques Astier continued to enrich the literature on metals and mining around the world and cultivated good personal relationships in many lands. Examples of his studies included those on the value of the deposit in Gara-Saharan Djebilet in Algeria and a resource survey entrusted to IRSID by the Iranian government in the early 1960s to design a steel plant using local resources of coal and ore. This was later fully implemented in Iran by the Russians.
Jacques Astier became known as an internationally recognized expert in mineral processing, and was called to serve on the International Mineral Processing Committee (IMPC) which he chaired from 1968 to 1985, and was responsible for eight congresses during that period. He was honoured with the IMPC 2010 Service Award, which had been previously been awarded on only one other occasion.
In 1974 he was responsible for supervising and inspiring both the French Society of Prereduced Products (SFMP) established to maintain a constant update of information on the development of techniques for alternative ironmaking, and secondly supervising COFRANSID, an economic group linking steel companies and French manufacturers of equipment to share knowledge gained by researchers.
Jacques retired from IRSID in 1988 when he started a career as a consulting engineer which continued until his final days. Indeed, he had been attending a conference in Paris just three days prior to his death.
His consultancy career gave him further opportunities to improve his knowledge on many visits to countries such as Vietnam and to work with international organizations such as the Battelle Institute in Geneva and UNIDO in Vienna.
He continued to be active in France for such publications as Revue de l’Industrie Minérale, la Revue de Métallurgie, les Techniques de l’Ingénieur and l’Ecole des Mines de Paris
For his work, Jacques Astier was created a Knight of the Legion of Honour.
His death even at the age of 88 was a surprise and sudden. He leaves the evidence of much scientific achievement. His work remains a model of knowledge transfer and human relationships, where his modesty enabled him to forge close links with specialists in many countries. Many were proud to know him as a friend.
Abridged from a tribute by Charles Roederer to be published in Revue de Métallurgie.