The Cuban nickel industry is the object of investments worth millions required in order to reduce production costs, in particular through the reduction of energy consumption, in the face of international competition.

Juan Ruíz Quintana, Mining General Director at the Ministry for Energy and Mines, told The Havana Reporter that the sum forecast for 2016 alone was in the region of 105 million dollars.

The Cuban nickel industry is the object of investments worth millions required in order to reduce production costs, in particular through the reduction of energy consumption, in the face of international competition.Works are underway in the Comandante Pedro Sotto Alba and Comandante Ernesto Che Guevara factories, the former operated by the joint venture Moa Nickel S. A, both located in the Moa region of the eastern province of Holguin.

He explained that by the middle of this year, a new plant at the Pedro Sotto Alba factory would cater for the annual demand for sulphuric acid, reduce operational costs and increase the production of both nickel sulphur and cobalt.

He said that with a 2,000 ton per day acid capacity, the installation that had not been operational for a number of years would come back into use at a cost of 190 million dollars, including payments for credits.

Ruiz Quintana pointed out that on the basis of the Pedro Sotto Alba Plant’s present production levels to satisfy the demand for sulphuric acid, the new installation would lead to savings of one million dollars per week.

The expert also explained that the economic benefits would however be even greater, because steam generated by the factory is to be exploited in industrial technology processes for electricity production that would otherwise require the use of 30,000 tons of oil.

He also said during the interview that the commitment to modernize the state-owned Comandante Ernesto Che Guevara nickel factory is important in order to enhance industrial efficiency and above all in terms of energy consumption.

Forming part of the Cubaníquel group, the complex is exploring the potential to use other fuels such as coal, petcoke and gas in order to cut costs and will introduce technological changes to its energy matrix.

Other tasks underway include the purchase of equipment and the preparation of a site for the solar homogenization and drying of the corroborated mineral.

Given that all mineral drying presently requires the burning of fossil fuels, he said that the importance of reducing levels of dampness through the exploitation of solar power is very obvious.

The General Director also announced plans for the capital repair of various processing plants, including the Reduction Ovens found at the heart of the factory. The works, for which Chinese funding has been approved, should conclude in 2019.

Another fundamental investment will begin in the summer of 2016; a new tailings dam at the Che Guevara plant, an outdoor facility that will store solid wastes that contain a high percentage of iron.

Even if output levels rise to 30,000 tons per annum, Ruíz Quintana confirmed that the reservoir design capacity allows for the holding of all mineral waste that may be produced during the lifetime of the reserves conceded to the factory over the coming years.

For the first time ever, Cuba is engaged in the production of fero-nickel through a joint venture with the Venezuelan company, Ferroniquel Minera S.A., with the foreign partner holding a 49% share stake.

He emphasized that the new company has been granted a 25-year mining licence that allows for a life-span extension of up to 60 years, should there be enough of the mineral in Moa and Nicaro.

He explained that once the finance construction and assembly is made available, the Ferroniquel Minera S.A. investment should be carried out within three years.

According to geological estimates the archipelago of Cuba has more than one billion tons of mineral reserves that, in line with the government’s list of opportunities, provide a potential opening for direct foreign investment.

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