HAVANA.- Nickel, cobalt, lead and zinc constitute the principal products of exportation of the Cuban mining.

Of these minerals, the nickel invoiced in 2017 approximately 600 million dollars, told in exclusive interview with Latin Press the general manager of Mining of the Department of Energy and Mines (Minem), Juan Ruiz.

The work of the Cuban Revolution is done by products of the mining, thanks to the ingenuity and the vision of future of the historical leader, Fidel Castro, who in the 70s impelled a project of geologic investigation, he emphasized.

In 1959, after the Revolution triumphed, there were only known five per cent of the minerals of the country, but with the cooperation of the Council of Economic Mutual Help - the principal economic organization of the former Socialist Camp - in the 80s, 70 per cent of the mineral resources were already known in the island.


In Cuba, when one speaks about mining one thinks about the nickel, since it is the industry of metallic minerals more important of the island. Belonging to the Managerial Group Cubaníquel - taken root in Moa, Holguín province -, it is composed by 13 companies, two of them producers, with current capacity of about 60 thousand tons per year of products of nickel more cobalt, Ruiz detailed.

The nickel, he said, is the element 20 in abundance in the earth's crust and it is used fundamentally to produce austenitic stainless steel or series 300, he said.

He told that the steel is a clean iron with something of carbon; the stainless steel contains clean iron with something of carbon and up to 18 per cent of chromium; the steel series 300 contains all the previous elements and between eight and 10 per cent of nickel.

The stainless steel has at present more than 300 thousand applications and its production and those of its special alloys constitute the principal market of the nickel. After a long period of fall in the prices of the international market, gradually it recovers and it initiated the month to 15 thousand 150 dollars per ton, a quotation that Ruiz considered to be reasonable opposite to the average for 10 thousand 406 dollars per ton in 2017.

Although the nickel and the stainless steel can be replaced in several applications with other materials, the austenitic stainless steel products are irreplaceable in most of its applications, in the industries of the oil, nutritive, pharmaceutical or military, he pointed.

For the recovery of the nickel industry, the country is centered in capitalizing and giving maintenance to the producing factories, looking for efficiency and major extractions of cobalt - for the strategic thing into that this mineral has turned - and concluding with the execution of a project of ferronickel.

This process can use the mineral that do not prepare the current factories, whose residues (slag) are used in the industry of construction materials for the production of bricks, blocks and asphalt miscellanies.

In Ruiz´s opinion, the above-mentioned strategy will contribute to the development program of the Managerial Group Cubaníquel and of the municipality Moa. This industry, which in 2017 invoiced approximately 600 million dollars, in a year of high prices, as it was in 2007, might reach a few billions in the same currency.

While, the quotation of the low cobalt grade increased 60 per cent, with regard to the price of 2017. It was quoted, on having initiated June, to 93 thousand 696 dollars the ton, endorsed by the multiple current applications of this metal in the digital technology and in the industry of electrical vehicles.

The Cuban nickel contains, in addition to iron and nickel, cobalt, but this one in a quantity lower than one per cent, told the manager. The above-mentioned mineral, in terms of world production, is scarce and it reaches scarcely 120 thousand tons; of which, 66 per cent come from the Democratic People's Republic of the Congo, he added.

With the exception of this country, the rest of the cobalt is obtained as a by-product or collateral production of the mining of the nickel and of the copper, fundamentally.

On the recent importance of the cobalt, he extended that of there were done only 25 per cent of the investments that the principal manufacturers of electrical vehicles need to satisfy the batteries demand, more than 90 billions of investment would be needed on a global scale.

Car transnational companies like Volkswagen, Volkswagen & JAC, Daimler AG (Mercedes-Benz), Ford and Porsche, look for sources of supply of cobalt.


On the investments, Ruiz told that in Cuba important nickel mineral deposits exist in Moa, Mayarí (Holguín), San Felipe (Camagüey) and Cajálbana (Pinar del Rio); and that the projects in this industry are millionaire.

He specified that in these, which start from zero or greenfield in the mining of the nickel, the cost ranges between two billions and up to five billion dollars.

In the foreign investment, he told that the most significant of the executed ones in the country in the last years is the project known as Castilian poly-metallic for the production of concentrates of lead and zinc in Saint Lucia, province Pinar del Rio, in the mixed enterprise nominated Emincar.

He added that it is an example of foreign investment, then, of a budget for 306 million dollars, was executed by 272 millions in 17 due months and that during the construction peak, in May, 2017, one thousand 359 workers worked; of which, only 79 were foreign. The factory is in production from October 2017.

He clarified that it has aptitude to process a million tons of mineral to the year, of which there obtain 140 thousand tons of concentrates of lead and zinc, which contain approximately 50 thousand of zinc and 27 thousand of lead.

The investments in the mining are millionaire. In the Portfolio of Opportunities of the managerial groups of the nickel and salt-mining geo-mining attended by the Minem, several projects of geologic investigation exist in brochure for the potentialities evaluation in minerals like zinc, lead, copper, gold and silver in the western, central and oriental areas, especially in the mountainous regions, he abounded.

Until now there are approaches of Chilean, Canadian and European companies for International Economic Associations in geologic investigations, for the later development.


The mining is a vital sector for any country, the official affirmed. In the island, five kinds of mining are practiced: opencast, underground, hydrocarbons, water and sea, and urban, he explained.

Of these forms, the most well-known and practiced it is the opencast one, since 160 companies do it. It highlighted that in Cuba the managerial group of Industry and Materials of the Construction, attended by the Department of the Construction, produces approximately six million cubic meters of arid, in more than 120 quarries that it produces in the whole country.

Ruiz mentioned that the underground mining in Cuba has a long history that began in 1530 in El Cobre, in the province of Santiago de Cuba. The deepest mine of Latin America became the one of Matahambre - at present closed - in Pinar del Rio, since it reached one kilometer and a half of depth.

At present, only an underground mine is exploited in the province of Villa Clara, in the municipality of Placetas.

A very particular variety is that of hydrocarbons, although seldom it is recognized as such, although the oil and the gas are mineral resources and they are extracted through perforation wells by the managerial group Cuba-Petróleo, he told. In that of water and sea, several activities exist.

For 30 years, he stood out, Cuba takes part in an international project with another five countries on the mining of the marine nodules across an organization with head office in Poland, named Interoceanmetal.

Also the urban mining is very active or of the recycling, an idea of Commander Ernesto Che Guevara, who in 1961 created the Union of Recovery of Raw Material, an organization that it recovers close to 27 per cent of what we reject, pointed the specialist.

The recycling helps to guarantee the sustainability for the new generations, since the mineral resources are finite, he concluded.

  • Translated by Linet Acuña Quilez.