Saturday, August 29, 2009

Cuban nickel production behind schedule

Cuban nickel production behind schedule
Updated: 2009-08-28 14:30

Cuban plans to produce around 70,000 tonnes of unrefined nickel and
cobalt this year are behind schedule, official media in Holguin province
reported this week, apparently due to hurricane damage sustained in 2008.

Local Television Cristal said on its website that one of the country's
three nickel plants, all located in the eastern province, was forecast
to produce 6,000 tonnes below its capacity and that in another it was
"possible" it would reach full production.

The information came out in reports on Wednesday about a visit to Moa,
Holguin by state officials to inspect two of the plants.

"Jorge Cuevas Ramos, First Secretary of the Holguin Communist Party,
congratulated workers for their efforts to make up lost production,"
Television Cristal reported on its web page as he toured repair work.

"These improvements along with other investments are key to leaving
behind lagging output in 2009 and resuming next year the productive
levels of this industry of transcendental importance for the Cuban
economy," Cuevas stated.

Cuba produced 70,400 tonnes of unrefined nickel and cobalt in 2008,
after averaging between 74,000 and 75,000 tonnes during much of the decade.

Nickel emerged as Cuba's biggest export earner in 2000 with almost all
output destined for Canada, Europe and China.

The Cuban-owned Che Guevara plant, with a capacity of around 32,000
tonnes, and Pedro Sotto Alba plant, a joint venture between state-run
Cubaniquel and Canada's Sherritt International <S.TO>, with a
37,000-tonne capacity, are located in Moa.

Television Cristal said the officials toured the Che Guevara plant, "the
most affected by Hurricane Ike ... where a production of 26,000 tonnes
of nickel and cobalt is forecast", and the Pedro Sotto Alba plant where
a recent expansion "made it possible that production would reach 37,000
tonnes this year."

Category Three Ike hit Cuba at Holguin's northern coast last September,
where the nickel industry's three processing plants are located,
seriously damaging infrastructure, housing and buildings and swamping
the area with torrential rains and a storm surge.

The Television Cristal report did not mention the third plant in the
area, the Rene Ramos Latourt at Nicaro Holguin, Cuba's oldest, which has
a capacity of 10,000 to 15,000 tonnes and was hit hard by Ike.

Scattered reports this year indicated Rene Ramos Latourt and the feed
process to the plant were operating below capacity at various times, so
there were most likely production problems there as well.

The Caribbean island is one of the world's largest nickel producers and
supplies 10 percent of the world's cobalt, according to the Basic
Industry Ministry.

Nickel is essential in the production of stainless steel and other
corrosion-resistant alloys. Cobalt is critical in production of super
alloys used for such products as aircraft engines.

Cuban nickel is considered to be Class II, with an average 90 percent
nickel content.

Cuba's National Minerals Resource Center reported that eastern Holguin
province accounted for more than 30 percent the world's known nickel
reserves, with lesser reserves in other parts of the country.

Cuban nickel production behind schedule-China Mining (28 August 2009)

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