Russian Billionaire Fridman’s Alfa Forms Venture to Produce Nickel in Cuba


Bloomberg:

Russian billionaire Mikhail Fridman’s Alfa Group said it formed a joint venture in Cuba to extract nickel from industrial waste, the Moscow-based company’s A1 unit said in a statement today.

Cuban President Raul Castro approved Alfa’s venture with the state-run company Commercial Caribbean Nickel SA, A1 said.

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Cuba to build fourth nickel processing plant in Las Camariocas Holguin


Reuters

Cuba will proceed with plans to build a ferronickel plant with its ally Venezuela, even though a dramatic drop in international prices has drained the island’s foreign income, a government official said on Monday.

The communist-run island is one the world’s biggest producers of nickel and cobalt.

“We continue to work on this new project of ferronickel that should add in the next two to two-and-a-half years a significant quantity of ferronickel,” Juan Ruiz, director of Cuba’s state-owned Nickel Export Company, said in an interview with Cuban television.

Cuba produced some 70,000 tonnes of unrefined nickel plus cobalt in 2008. The mineral is mostly exported to China.

The new $600 million ferronickel plant will be located in Las Camariocas, in Cuba’s eastern province of Holguin where the island’s nickel industry is based.

In 2007, Venezuela, Havana’s main political and economic ally, replaced China’s state-owned Minmetals Corp. as Cuba’s partner in the ferronickel joint venture.

Cuban officials have said in the past the plant could produce annually up to 68,000 tonnes of ferronickel, an alloy used in making stainless steel.

But nickel prices have dropped so sharply in recent months that Cuban authorities earlier warned that the nickel industry was on the verge of being unprofitable.

Ruiz said Cuba is undertaking a series of cost-saving measures to keep its nickel industry afloat, such as using crude oil produced in Cuba instead of imported oil to power the plants.

“Our production fortunately goes according to plan, but it’s obvious that at these price levels we can not expect to contribute much, like in past years, to the country’s economy,” he said.

Nickel has been until recently Cuba’s main source of foreign export income and accounted in recent years for more than 50 percent of the country’s export earnings aside from services.

Cuba has three nickel processing plants, one of which is operated with Canada’s Sherritt International.

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Cuba sees 13 pct hike in tourism revenue in 2008


The Associated Press HAVANA Cuba saw record tourism in 2008 that generated more than $2.7 billion in revenue, a 13.5 percent increase over the previous year, the government reported. Some 2.35 million foreigners visited the island last year, 9.3 percent more than in 2007, according to a National Office of Statistics report posted online this week. The visitor surge helped the industry earn about $326 million more than it did in 2007. The report did not say how much profit the sector generated.

Cuban tourism has remained strong while visitors to other Caribbean destinations have dropped amid the world financial crisis. International travel operators say the island remains popular because many visitors can buy relatively cheap, all-inclusive packages and can budget trip costs well in advance. At the same time, the financial crunch has not yet hit hard in Canada, the top source of Cuba’s visitors.

Washington’s nearly 50-year-old trade embargo effectively bans U.S. tourists from Cuba. But Britain, Italy, Spain and Germany follow Canada as the top suppliers of tourists.

The banner year for tourism came after foreign visitor rates dipped in 2006 and 2007. The government offered no explanation for the decline, but the island has relatively low returning visitor rates. Some tourists complain of poor service, spotty infrastructure and lousy food, indicative of a communist system where shortages are common and state employees feel little motivation to excel at their jobs.

State media reported Monday that Cuba’s nickel industry out-earned tourism in 2008, becoming the top source of government revenue for the second straight year. The government didn’t say how much income the nickel industry generated.

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Cuba: Nickel again earned more than tourism in ’08


AP: HAVANA — Cuba produced 70,400 tons of nickel in 2008, helping the industry surpass tourism as the communist-run island’s top source of revenue for the second consecutive year, state media reported Monday.

The government news agency Prensa Latina said nickel “again achieved economic superiority over tourism,” but did not release reliable figures on how much the industry made.

Neither has the government released exact tourism revenue. But in 2008, the industry recorded a 9.3 percent growth in foreign visitors, setting a new tourist record and almost certainly generating more than the $2.2 billion it made in 2007.

Cuba is the world’s sixth-leading producer of nickel and cobalt. The government announced last year that for the first time, nickel had exceeded tourism as the island’s top economic driver. But it has never been entirely clear by how much nickel is outpacing the vacation industry.

Prensa Latina said nickel production remained strong in 2008, despite a drop in the metal’s international value from $53,000 per ton to $9,000 per ton due to the global financial crisis.

Nickel is an essential ingredient in stainless steel and in electronics, including computers, monitor screens and other appliances.

The U.S. embargo prohibits American companies from purchasing nickel and other Cuban products, but the island is an important supplier for China and Canada.

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Russian Interest in Cuban Oil and Nickel


HAVANA TIMES, Nov. 23.- Russian companies will participate in the search for oil in Cuba’s exclusive zone in the Gulf of Mexico, reported IPS. Mikhail Kamyin, the Russian ambassador to Havana, also announced that Norilsk Nickel, one of the world’s largest mining firms, wants to build a Ferro-nickel plant in Cuba.

Russian President Dimitri Medvedev is scheduled to visit Cuba starting November 27, as part of a Latin American tour that will also include Venezuela and Brazil.

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