Sherritt confirms plans to increase nickel production

Photo by Philipp Arlt

The new President and CEO of Toronto-based Sherritt International Corp, Leon Binedell, has confirmed that the Canadian mining entity intends to maintain its presence in Cuba, and has said that it will increase nickel production at its plant in Moa. 

Speaking to the Cuban media during a first visit to the company’s operations in Holguin, Sherritt’s President, who was accompanied by Cuba’s Minister of Energy and Mines, Liván Arronte, was quoted as saying: “We are considering options to expand the plant’s production capacity and continue to operate there for many more decades”. 

Binedell, a South African, told journalists that the company would continue working in Cuba despite the tightening of US sanctions, and said that options were being analysed to increase production. Arronte was quoted by Granma as saying that it was an opportune moment to continue consolidating the efficiency of the jointly operated Cuban-Canadian Commandante Pedro Sotto Alba nickel processing facility, which Sherritt has been managing since 1994 as a joint venture with the Cuban state.

Earlier this year, Sherritt forecast finished nickel production in 2021 at between 32,000 to 34,000 tonnes and finished cobalt production between 3,300 and 3,600 tonnes. At the time, the company said that it anticipated capital spending in 2021 of US$45m, primarily to replace existing equipment and infrastructure at Moa. Its power business was forecast to produce between 450 and 500 GWh of electricity this year. Apart from being the major producer of nickel and cobalt in Cuba, Sherritt is also the largest independent energy producer in the country.

Sherritt noted, at the time, that it expected this year to undertake planned maintenance deferred from 2020, but cautioned that production may be impacted by the availability of the natural gas provided to it for power production. It also said that “activities and operational spending” may be delayed, because of the timing of the receipt of funds under its energy agreements with its Cuban partners. In a report to market analysts, it noted that in 2020 output of finished nickel at Moa was 31,506 tonnes, but that production had been negatively impacted by railway service disruptions, an extended plant shutdown, and unplanned repairs to autoclaves. It said that finished cobalt production was 3,370 tonnes, while its power production in 2020 was 602 GWh, exceeding guidance for the year.

Sherritt is regarded internationally as a world leader in the extraction and refining of nickel and cobalt from lateritic ores.

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