Cuba is the fifth global metal reserve, the ninth nickel-producing country in the world and, despite the pandemic, will exceed 50,000 tons of metal extraction in 2020.
Juan Ruiz, the general director of Mining of the Ministry of Energy and Mines (Minem), said in an interview to Prensa Latina that this level of productivity is achieved with the current capacities of the production factories, despite the pandemic scenario that characterises 2020.
According to the management, the factory Comandante Pedro Sotto Alba -Moa Nickel s.a., a joint venture with the Canadian firm Sherritt International, is over compliant 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 capitalisation.
Located in Moa, in the Eastern province of Holguín, those industries have a mining concession (authorised plot) that, at the current rate, allows them to extract and export nickel for 17 or 20 years, according to the records from the National Office of Mineral Resources (NOMR).
However, the nickel industry as a whole has other mining concessions already granted in Moa, Mayari, Camagüey y Pinar del Río that ensure the production of Cuban nickel and cobalt for over 50 years, noted Ruiz and added that this data is included in the national balance of reserves and resources of NOMR.
Cuba has also other deposits of nickel. In Mayari, 70 kilometres from Moa, there are 300 million tons of resources. “Therefore”, said Ruiz, “when the minerals in Moa are depleted, the ones in Mayari can be used”.
In San Felipe, Camagüey, there are also deposits with resources estimated at 306 million tons of lateritic mineral.
Ruiz added that, in future, minerals can be transferred to the factories located in Moa from other regions of Cuba or a new investment can be made, which is 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 Rio, for which an International economic partnership was signed recently with the aim of evaluating the feasibility of this deposit that contains more than 51 million tons of mineral.
According to the civil servant, the factories today extract only nickel and cobalt, but since the beginning of nickel production in Cuba, more than 70 years ago, the industry’s waste?, containing 45% iron, are preserved.
Ruiz said that, in Moa alone, a ferronickel project can have mineral resources for more than 50 years, together with the opportunities factories have to request from the NOMR mining concessions in other areas and extend its life for another 50 years.
In his opinion, the Comandante Ernesto Che Guevara factory is in its first year of a capitalisation process, of the four planned, whose schedule is on track despite the difficulties encountered during the Covid-19 pandemic.
The improvement of the infrastructure includes the main equipment from the process: dryers, kilns, sedimentation tanks, as well as other types of furnaces and industrial machines.
In order to ensure the completion of the schedules. a training program for workers and a review of the quality management systems are carried out at the same time. According to the US Geological Survey and the latest Statista report 2019, the island is the fifth in metal reserve and the third in cobalt.
The main use of nickel in the electric vehicle market is and will be in the production of stainless and special steels, in which 75% to 80% of the world’s nickel obtained from mining is used, while only 5% or 6% of the mineral is used in the booming battery market. (PL)