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Cuba 09 Unrefined Nickel Output at 70,100 T
Jan 6,2010 09:06CST
industry news

HAVANA, Jan. 6 -- Cuba's unrefined nickel plus cobalt production weighed in at 70,100 tonnes last year, down slightly from the 70,400 tonnes reported in 2008, state-run media said on Tuesday.

Holguin province's television Cristal reported the production as part of a program on the area's economic performance last year.

The country's three processing plants are located in Holguin.

"The industry did not meet its plan for the year, as the only plant that was able to reach its goal was the Pedro Sotto Alba," the report said, without providing further details.

The provincial state-run newspaper, Ahora, reported this week that output at the Pedro Soto Alba plant, a joint venture with Canadian mining company Sherritt International's (S.TO: Quote), was more than 2000 tonnes above 2008, a record.

Last year Sherritt International reported 2008 output at the plant was 34,673 tonnes of unrefined nickel plus cobalt.

There was no further information on output at the two other plants in the area which are fully owned and operated by state monopoly Cubaniquel.

Earlier this year Holguin media said the year's plan was around 70,000 tonnes and that due to hurricane damage the state-run Ernesto Che Guevara plant, with a capacity of 32,000 tonnes, would produce around 26,000 tonnes.

Scattered reports this year indicated the state-run Rene Ramos Latourt plant, the oldest with a capacity of 10,000 tonnes to 15,000 tonnes, was operating below capacity at various times.

Hurricane Ike, a Category 3 storm, hit Cuba in September 2008 at Holguin's northern coast, where the nickel industry's 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.

Output had averaged between 74,000 tonnes and 75,000 tonnes of unrefined nickel plus cobalt for much of the decade before the storm hit.

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 of the world's known nickel reserves, with lesser reserves in other parts of the country.


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