Cuba Nickel Output Falls To Lowest In A Decade
Cuba’s unrefined nickel plus cobalt production came to between 60,000 and 65,000 tons in 2009 — the lowest in a decade, according to Reuters, quoting radio reports in the eastern province of Holguín.
Cuba produced 70,400 tons of unrefined nickel and cobalt in 2008, after averaging 74,000-75,000 tons for much of the decade.
While production at Canadian mining company Sherritt International’s nickel venture in Cuba topped 37,000 tons, output at two plants owned by state-run Cubaniquel was well below capacity.
Cuba has not announced this year’s nickel output, with officials simply stating it was less than the 70,000 tons planned.
The Caribbean island is one of the top nickel producers on Earth, supplying 10% of the world’s cobalt, according to Cuba’s Ministry of Basic Industry.
“The Pedro Soto Alba plant met the year’s plan, producing more than 37,000 tons of nickel, and remains open,” said Jorge Cuevas Ramos, first secretary of the Communist Party in Holguín, told Radio Rebelde.
Radio stations based in Holguin, where the three plants are located, reported that production at the Cuban-owned Ernesto Che Guevara plant, with a capacity of 32,000 tons, did not meet its 26,000-ton objective.
There was no mention of output at the country’s third oldest plant, Cubaniquel’s René Ramos Latour at Nicaro, whose capacity is reported to be 10,000 to 15,000 tons.
Reports this year indicated Rene Ramos Latour and the feed process to the plant were operating below-capacity at various times, so there were most likely production problems there as well.
Hurricane Ike, a Category 3 storm, hit Cuba in September 2008 at Holguin’s northern coast, where the three processing plants are located, damaging the two Cubaniquel plants, infrastructure, housing and buildings and swamping the area with torrential rains and a storm surge.
Cuba’s National Minerals Resource Center says Holguín province accounts for over 30% of the world’s known nickel reserves, with lesser reserves in other parts of Cuba.