Cuba to cut nickel plant output for major overhaul

Mon Feb 3, 2014 2:22pm EST
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* Ernesto Che Guevara is one of two nickel plants in Cuba

* Government wants to cut costs

HAVANA Feb 3 (Reuters) - 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 monopoly Cubaniquel.   Continued...