Role of Chromium in Vacuum Melters
Early vacuum melters where I worked between 1955 and 1958 used electrolytic chromium to make superalloys that contained about 25% chromium. When I returned to the business of selling vacuum melting furnaces in 1962 they were using smelted chromium that was mined in Rhodesia.
On the 11th of November 1965 the Rhodesian Prime Minister Ian Smith issued a declaration of independence from Great Britain and set up a government controlled by the white minority. Great Britain immediately announced sanctions and the UN passed a resolution urging member states to withhold recognition of the new regime. In a 1968 UN resolution requiring mandatory sanctions against Rhodesia.
Rhodesia was the largest supplier of quality pure chromium in the world so vacuum melters in the US had to find alternate suppliers. By the early 1070's I saw the smelted chromium that looked Rhodesian but in boxes labeled made in the USSR. Markets work and embargoes do not.
A purchasing agent from Amtorg assigned the Metallurgimport account asked me to visit New York for lunch at the Four Seasons. Our discussion centered on the metal chromium that was being supplied by the Soviets to the United States Union Carbide. He proposed the use of chromium metal as barter with Cheston to obtain equipment from America. My understanding at the time was that their chromium was coming from Rhodesia that was embargoed by the American government. I don't think he had high official approval for his offer, but it appeared to be a way for the Russians to avoid the expensive commissions being charged by Union Carbide.
I did not know it at the time, but this same trading company that sold chromium was the agent for Machinoimport that sold electroslag equipment for the technology of Paton Institute of Kiev. This New York trading house was suing Consarc, our sister company, for infringing Soviet-owned American patents.
I later learned that the Russian I met at Amtorg had been escorted out of New York by two KGB agents. He was accused of stealing a taxi. After a wild chase by police around New York, he wrecked the taxi and escaped on foot. By this time I had discovered that high government officials allowed the Russian/Rhodesia chromium connection. This may have been the reason the CIA and FBI wanted to talk with me during this time.
In 1986 I finally obtained several documents about these interviews and 95% of the words were blacked out.