Cuba forecast 2017 nickel, cobalt sulfides output at 54,500 tonnes

Cuba forecast 2017 nickel, cobalt sulfides output at 54,500 tonnes

Heavy trucks are seen at an area used by the nickel plant Pedro Soto Alba in the eastern city of Moa.REUTERS/Alexandre Meneghini

HAVANA, July 9 (Reuters)   Cuba plans to produce 54,500 tonnes of nickel and cobalt sulfides this year, state-run television said at the weekend.

Nickel is one of the cash-strapped Cuba most important exports, but revenue from it has suffered in recent years due to a decline in production and prices.

The country was ranked 10th in world nickel production in 2016 and sixth in cobalt.

Cuba produced on average 74,000 tonnes of nickel plus cobalt during the first decade of this century, but the oldest of three plants was shuttered in 2012 and another has suffered from obsolescence and hurricane damage.

Cuban nickel industry executives told Reuters a year ago that the industry was averaging 56,000 tonnes per year.

The report Saturday evening from eastern Moa, Holguin province, where state monopoly Cubaniquel owns one plant and is joint venture partner with Canadian mining company Sherritt International in another, said both were on track to meet the goal of 54,500 tonnes.

“The Pedro Soto Alba plant plans to produce 36,000 tonnes … and at Che Guevara 19,500 tonnes,” said the report, which focused on efforts to lower costs in the face of low prices.

The Pedro Soto Alba is the joint venture facility, while the Che Guevara processing plant is 100 percent Cuban owned.

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 the country had around a third of the world’s known nickel reserves.

Cuba exports to China, Europe and Canada. (Reporting by Marc Frank; Editing by James Dalgleish)