Cuban nickel plant offline after breakdown
Fri Jul 15, 2011 4:50pm GMT
* Closed Cuban plant has 80 to 85 tonne daily capacity
* Authorities say shutdown gives time for maintenance
HAVANA, July 15 (Reuters) – Cuba's second most important nickel plant
broke down this week and will apparently be offline for a while,
according to media reports in eastern Holguin province where the
industry is located.
"The Che Guevara nickel plant in Moa stopped activity due to a
breakdown," Holguin provinces' state-run Tele Cristal reported on
Thursday, without providing further details.
The station went on to say authorities had decided to use the down time
to carry out "an overall maintenance" of the plant, an indication that
whatever went wrong would take some time to repair.
The Cuban-owned Che Guevara plant has a capacity of 80 tonnes to 85
tonnes of unrefined nickel plus cobalt per day.
Cuba's most important plant, the Pedro Soto Alba, remained open, as did
a third, wholly owned Cuban processing plant in the area.
Pedro Soto Alba, also in Moa, is a joint venture between Canadian mining
company Sherritt International and state monopoly Cubaniquel.
Cuban unrefined nickel plus cobalt production fell well short of target
last year, according to the government, though no tonnage has been reported.
Industry officials had stated output was running 4 percent above plan
before this week's breakdown, again without providing any figures.
The government's goal for the state-run industry this year and last was
never made public after 2009 output weighed in at 70,100 tonnes. 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.
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.
Cuban nickel is considered to be Class II, with an average 90 percent
Cuba's National Minerals Resource Center reported that eastern Holguin
province accounted for more than 30 percent of the world's known nickel
reserves, with lesser reserves in other parts of the country.