Cuba opens new lead and zinc mines to improve mining sector and local jobs
From The Cuba Review c. 1907-1931
The Castellanos Mining Project, a new mine in Pinar del Rio, Cuba, will start production of lead and zinc in October in an attempt to revitalize the country’s mining industry. With more than $278 million invested into the project, it is one of the largest investments in the country today.
Cuba is already a huge exporter of nickel, but the U.S. Geological Survey shows that Cuba has great potential with other minerals as well. Executives at Empresa Minera del Caribe, or EMINCAR, expect that the Castellanos mine will produce 100,000 tonnes of zinc concentrate and 50,000 tonnes of lead concentrate a year.
EMINCAR, the group that evaluated the mine and performed its feasibility study, believes that the project will greatly improve Cuba’s mining sector.
EMINCAR is a joint venture between Swiss-based commodities giant Trafigura and Cuba’s government-run firm Geominera. EMINCAR deputy general manager Justo Hernández Pérez told journalists, “We are reviving the small and medium size mining sector in Cuba from this investment. This is just the start.”
Indeed, the Castellanos mine holds enough reserves for 11 years of production. Nearby, the Santa Lucia deposit holds enough for 10 years. EMINCAR general manager Jose Vila said that EMINCAR can tweak its factory enough to utilize the Santa Lucia deposit once Castellanos is exhausted.
The Castellanos mine was once home to gold, and during the 1990s had a popular gold mine.
When the Soviet Union, a key ally, fell in the late 1990s and early 2000s, however, Cuba’s economy collapsed. Production became expensive, metal commodities decreased, and the gold mine was abandoned.
“We are now exploiting the deposit below oxide camp,” said Vila, referring to the cap that forms when the mineral oxidizes over time once it has been leached. Vila believes that mining for gold in the Castellanos mine could be profitable once again.
Cuba’s economy recently emerged from recession in the first half of this year, and low exports and a drop in oil trade with Venezuela have the small nation under stress. It hopes that foreign investment will improve the nation’s economy. According to Reuters, Cuba published its annual investment portfolio in late 2016, describing many options for foreign investors to “explore, exploit, and commercialize precious metals, base metals, and other minerals of interest.”
The Castellanos mine will provide jobs for nearly 500 people with an average monthly wage of around $50, plus $80 for good performance. The average monthly wage in Cuba is $30.
“This is a village that didn’t have much work,” said Guillermo Fabelo, a mechanic at the new mine. “And this a project that will get many people back on their feet.”
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