* Damage from Hurricane Sandy unclear
* Plant apparently down for three weeks
HAVANA, Nov 20 (Reuters) - A Cuban nickel plant damaged by Hurricane Sandy more than three weeks ago is now up and running, according to official media in Holguin province where it is located.
“After 10 days of intense labor by a work brigade, the Ernesto Che Guevara Plant of Moa is operating and producing nickel,” the government-run provincial television station reported on Monday evening.
The plant produces around 30,000 tonnes of unrefined nickel plus cobalt annually.
Sandy passed over eastern Cuba, including Holguin province where the country’s three nickel plants are located, at the end of October
The nickel industry is cloaked in secrecy and Communist authorities have provided little information about storm damage.
Cuba produced 69,700 tonnes of unrefined nickel plus cobalt in 2010, the last official figures available.
Moa is also home to a Cuban nickel venture with Canadian mining company Sherritt International, the Pedro Soto Alba plant, which was reported operating, but at below capacity, a day after the storm.
The status of the third plant, René Ramos Latourt, in Nicaro Holguin, was unclear.
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 eastern Holguin province accounted for more than 30 percent of the world’s known nickel reserves, with lesser reserves in other parts of the country.