Cuba sees nickel output steady at 56,000 tonnes; low prices bite
By Sarah Marsh
MOA, Cuba, June 13 (Reuters) - Cuba is trying to reduce costs in the nickel industry to offset losses from low global prices, rather than raising output from 56,000 tonnes annually, industry executives said on a rare tour of one of the communist-led island's plants.
The head of state monopoly Cubaniquel and plant managers said that despite the slump they were looking to foreign investment to increase capacity in the future.
Nickel is one of the top foreign exchange earners for Cuba's beleaguered economy, and the country averaged production of around 74,000 tonnes in the decade after 2000. But nickel export earnings have been hit by plant obsolescence and a sharp fall in prices for the metal over the last four years.
Cubaniquel originally expected revenue of $600 million to $700 million from nickel this year, projecting prices at around $14,000 per tonne, director Eder Oliveros Garcell said. Instead, prices have hovered around $8,600 per tonne, meaning sales will be substantially lower.
"We expected revenue of this order, but the reality today is different," Oliveros Garcell said, during a visit late last week to the Pedro Soto Alba plant in the eastern Cuban city of Moa, a joint venture between Cubaniquel and Canadian mining company Sherritt International Corp.
PRICE RISE SEEN
Oliveros Garcell said he expected prices for nickel, used in the production of stainless steel and other corrosion-resistant alloys, to rise again next year. Cuba is one of the world's largest producers and exports to China, Europe and Canada. Continuación...