The Essential Guide to Sodium Cyanide: Usage Cases and Sourcing

Sodium cyanide (NaCN) is a potent compound that, despite its toxic nature, plays a critical role in various industrial applications. Its properties make it a valuable chemical in mining, chemical synthesis, and even in the pharmaceutical sector. This guide aims to shed light on the primary usage cases of sodium cyanide and offer insights into responsible procurement practices for businesses requiring this chemical.

Key Applications of Sodium Cyanide

1. Gold and Silver Mining

The most significant use of sodium cyanide is in the extraction of gold and silver from ores. This process, known as cyanidation, involves dissolving the metals in a solution of sodium cyanide and water. The simplicity and efficiency of this method make it the preferred choice for extracting precious metals on a large scale. The gold or silver is then recovered from the solution through various methods, including carbon adsorption, precipitation, or electrowinning.

2. Chemical Synthesis

Sodium cyanide serves as a precursor to many useful chemicals, including cyanohydrins, nitriles, and carboxylic acids. These compounds are fundamental in producing various products, such as pharmaceuticals, agrochemicals, and synthetic fibers. Its role in organic synthesis underscores the versatility and importance of sodium cyanide in the chemical industry.

3. Pharmaceutical Industry

In smaller quantities, sodium cyanide is used in the pharmaceutical industry to synthesize several valuable compounds. These include nitriles and carboxylic acids, which are precursors to a variety of drugs and active pharmaceutical ingredients (APIs). The stringent control over quality and purity makes pharmaceutical-grade sodium cyanide a specialized product.

Responsible Procurement of Sodium Cyanide

Given the hazardous nature of sodium cyanide, purchasing it requires careful consideration of several factors, including supplier reliability, product quality, and adherence to safety and environmental regulations.

Who Should Buy Sodium Cyanide?

Businesses involved in the mining of precious metals, chemical manufacturing, and pharmaceuticals are the primary consumers of sodium cyanide. These industries require a steady supply of the chemical to maintain their operations. However, due to the potential risks associated with handling and transporting sodium cyanide, only entities equipped with the necessary safety infrastructure and trained personnel should handle the chemical.

Sourcing Sodium Cyanide

When sourcing sodium cyanide, it is crucial to choose suppliers that adhere to strict safety and environmental standards. Here are some key considerations:

1. Certification and Compliance

Opt for suppliers that have certifications and comply with international standards for quality management (e.g., ISO 9001) and environmental management (e.g., ISO 14001). Compliance with the International Cyanide Management Code (ICMC) is particularly important for mining operations, as it demonstrates a commitment to responsible cyanide management practices.

2. Safety and Handling

Evaluate the supplier’s safety protocols, including packaging, transportation, and handling of sodium cyanide. Suppliers should offer detailed safety data sheets (SDS) and support in implementing safety measures at your facility.

3. Environmental Responsibility

Choose suppliers that have a clear policy on environmental protection and waste management. This includes measures to prevent cyanide spills and procedures for safe disposal of cyanide-containing waste.

4. Technical Support

Reliable suppliers offer technical support and training to ensure that their clients can safely and efficiently use sodium cyanide in their operations.


Sodium cyanide is a vital chemical in various industries, but its procurement and use come with significant responsibilities. By understanding the primary applications of sodium cyanide and adhering to best practices in sourcing, businesses can ensure the safe and sustainable use of this chemical. Always prioritize safety, environmental protection, and compliance with regulations when choosing a sodium cyanide supplier.

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