* Ernesto Che Guevara is one of two nickel plants in Cuba
* Government wants to cut costs
HAVANA Feb 3 Cuba will reduce production at one
of its two nickel plants this year so it can carry out
maintenance and capital improvements to make the plant
competitive at low international prices.
A report on the evening government newscast on Sunday said
the Ernesto Che Guevara processing facility in eastern Holguin
province would be given a major overhaul.
The state-owned plant, built with Soviet technology and
opened in 1986, has a capacity of about 30,000 tonnes of
unrefined nickel plus cobalt a year at a cost of more than
$12,000 a tonne.
Spot nickel prices on the London Metals Exchange opened at
$13,695 a tonne on Monday.
The broadcast quoted the plant's head of maintenance as
saying it would be the biggest overhaul in the plant's 28-year
history and that workers face the challenge of producing 14,700
tonnes of unrefined nickel plus cobalt while it is taking place.
"2014 is a very complicated year for the Cuban economy ...
and the world economy and the cost of production has to be
reduced," the maintenance manager was quoted as saying.
Cuba's most important plant, the Pedro Soto Alba, also in
Holguin, remains open. The facility is a joint venture of
Canadian mining company Sherritt International and state
Output at the Soto Alba plant averages around 38,000 tonnes
a year at a cost of $5,000 to $7,000 a tonne.
Cubaniquel and Sherritt are also partners in a Canadian
refinery to which output from the Pedro Soto Alba plant is
shipped. After refining, the product is marketed by yet another
China and Europe also purchase Cuban nickel products, which
are the country's most important export and one of its top
foreign exchange earners after technical services and tourism.
Cuban unrefined nickel plus cobalt production fell short of
its 62,000-tonne target last year, the government said, without
The Caribbean island is one of the world's largest nickel
producers and supplies 10 percent of the world's cobalt,
according to the government.
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
Cuban nickel is considered to be Class II, with an average
90 percent nickel content.
Cuba's National Minerals Resource Center says Holguin
province accounts for more than 30 percent of the world's known
nickel reserves, with lesser reserves in other parts of the