09/10/13 - Reuters - Low prices take toll on Cuban nickel revenues
Low prices take toll on Cuban nickel revenues
* First-half 2013 revenues 26 percent below expectations
* Two processing plants have 61,700 tonne plan
* Nickel a key Cuban export
By Marc Frank
HAVANA, Sept 10 (Reuters) - Cuban nickel industry revenues were well below
expectations in the first six months of the year, mainly because of low
international prices, official radio reported this week.
The provincial radio station of Eastern Holguin province, Radio Angulo,
reporting on a visit to Moa municipality by provincial Communist Party
leader Luis Torres Iribar, said the municipality's exports were short 26
percent, or $90 million, for the period.
Cuba's only two nickel plants, the Cubaniquel-owned Ernesto Che Guevara
plant and the Pedro Soto Alba, a joint venture between Canadian mining
company Sherritt International and Cubaniquel, are both located in Moa.
The report said that the Ernesto Che Guevara plant's earnings were 15
percent below expectations, and the Pedro Soto Alba plant was down 25
percent, "mainly due to the low price of the mineral on the world market."
Cuba plans to produce around 62,000 tonnes of unrefined nickel plus cobalt
in 2013, according to local and foreign company reports.
Sherritt International has said it expects the Pedro Soto Alba plant to
produce 38,000 tonnes, similar to 2012. An Ernesto Che Guevara manager said
earlier this year the plant would produce 23,700 tonnes.
State monopoly Cubaniquel and Sherritt are also partners in a Canadian
refinery where output from the Pedro Soto Alba plant is shipped, and after
refining the product is marketed by yet another venture between them.
China and Europe also purchase Cuban nickel products, the country's most
important exports and one of its top foreign exchange earners after
technical services and tourism.
A joint venture ferronickel plant under construction in Moa with Venezuela
was scheduled to open by 2014, but construction has now been put on hold.
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
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.
Ferronickel is an iron-nickel combination mostly used in steel making.
Cuban nickel is considered to be Class II with an average 90 percent nickel
Cuba's National Minerals Resource Center reported that eastern Holguin
province had around one-third of the world's known reserves.
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