The nickel industry in Cuba today is now capable of producing over 50 thousand tons of this non-ferrous metal, according to the average of recent years, confirmed a director of the Ministry of Energy and Mines (Minem) .
Such a productive level will be reached with the current production capacities of factories and despite the pandemic scenario that characterizes 2020, general director of Mining of (Minem), Juan Ruiz, said in an interview with Prensa Latina.
The manager exemplified that the Comandante Pedro Sotto Alba factory -Moa Nickel S.A., a joint venture with Canadian firm Sherritt International-, is overcompliant with its production plans and in turn compensates for the limitations of the socialist state-owned company Comandante Ernesto Che Guevara, currently in process of capitalization.
Located in Moa, in the eastern province of Holguín, these industries have a mining concession (authorized plot) that at the current rate allows them to extract and export nickel for 17 or 20 years, according to the National Office of Mineral Resources (ONRM).
However, the nickel industry as a whole has other mining concessions already granted in Moa, Mayarí, Camagüey and Pinar del Río that ensure the production of Cuban nickel and cobalt for over 50 years, Ruiz remarked and added that these data are included in the national balance of reserves and resources of the ONRM.
Together with other non-concessional resources, which place the island among the countries with the largest nickel and cobalt reserves, in fifth and third place respectively.
Cuba also has other deposits of the metallic mineral. Seventy kilometers from Moa, in Mayarí, there are 300 million tons of the resource. Therefore, when the minerals of Moa are exhausted, those of Mayarí can be used, he said.
In San Felipe, Camagüey, there are also other deposits with resources estimated at 306 million tons of lateritic mineral, he said and added that in the future minerals can be transferred from other regions of Cuba to the factories located in Moa or make a new investment, this question listed in the nickel industry portfolio of opportunities.
Another equally important reserve is located in Cajálbana, La Palma municipality, in the western province of Pinar del Río, for which an international economic association was recently created with the aim of evaluating the feasibility of this deposit that contains more than 51 million tons of the mineral.
Ruiz explained that the factories today only extract nickel and cobalt, but since the beginning of nickel production in Cuba, more than 70 years ago, the industry’s wastes are preserved, because they contain 45 percent iron.
This is a raw material for the production of steel that is not consumed due to the lack of adequate technology.
On the other hand, since 1943 the lower part of the already exploited deposits has been conserved, called saprolite, another essential raw material for the production of ferronickel and its use would allow for diversification of Cuban products.
Only in Moa, a ferronickel project can have mineral resources for over 50 years, together with the possibilities for factories to request mining concessions from the ONRM in other areas and extend its life for another 50 years, Ruiz said.
In another order, the manager explained that the Comandante Ernesto Che Guevara factory is in the first year of a capitalization process planned for four, whose schedule is being met despite the difficulties imposed by the Covid-19 pandemic.
The improvement of the infrastructure includes the main equipment of the process plants: dryers, kilns, settlers and tanks, as well as other types of kilns and industrial process machines.
In parallel, a training program for workers is carried out, and quality management systems are reviewed to ensure compliance with the schedules.