Cuba says nickel production picks up after floods
Mon Nov 12, 2007 10:12am EST
By Marc Frank
HAVANA, Nov 12 (Reuters) – Cuba said at the weekend that unrefined
nickel plus cobalt production was returning to normal after weeks of
torrential rains in eastern Holguin province had shut down open pit
mines and slowed output.
"Nickel production in the province has begun to stabilize," Sunday
evening's government newscast said, in a report on recovery efforts in
eastern Cuba where flooding from Tropical Storm Noel caused $500 million
Cuba's three plants are located in the mountains of Holguin province
which since early October has been battered by the worst rainfall in
decades, and was swamped by Tropical Storm Noel 10 days ago.
The Rene Ramos Latour nickel processing plant, which was closed when
flood waters reached its drying ovens more than a week ago, reopened on
Sunday, Holguin's local television channel reported.
The two other plants in the area operated with skeleton staffs over the
last two weeks, an industry source told Reuters, with little if any
material moving in or out of the plants.
At the weekend transportation remained difficult, with the military,
construction crews, and residents working to reopen washed out roads and
"Damage from the torrential rains have effected the collection and
distribution of food, passenger transportation and the moving of
materials … for the processing of nickel plants in Moa and Nicaro,"
government radio reported on Saturday.
The Nicaro-based Rene Ramos Latour plant and Moa-based Che Guevara plant
are owned and operated by state-run Cubaniquel, while a third Moa-based
plant, the Pedro Soto Alba, is a joint venture with Canada-based
Sherritt International (S.TO: Quote, Profile, Research).
The Rene Ramos Latour plant produces around 10,000 tonnes of unrefined
nickel plus cobalt per year.
The Che Guevara plant and Pedro Soto Alba plant each produce more than
30,000 tonnes of unrefined nickel plus cobalt annually.
Basic Industry Minister Yadira Garcia said earlier this year Cuba
produced 74,000 tonnes of unrefined nickel plus cobalt in 2006 and
planned to produce 76,000 tonnes this year.
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
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.
Nickel emerged as Cuba's biggest export-earner in 2000. It garnered more
than $1 billion in 2005 and around $1.3 billion in 2006 for the country,
not including Sherritt's share, with almost all output destined for
Canada, Europe and China.
Cuban nickel is considered to be Class II, with an average 90 percent
Cuba's National Minerals Resource Center reported that eastern Holguin
province counted 34 percent of the world's known reserves, or some 800
million tonnes of proven nickel plus cobalt reserves, and another 2.2
billion tonnes of probable reserves, with lesser reserves in other parts
of the country. (Editing by John Picinich)