New Lead-Zinc Mine Set to Revive Cuba’s Mining Sector

The $278-million Castellano lead-zinc mine is on track to start production by the end of the year.

lead-zinc mine

A new lead-zinc mine in Northwestern Cuba is set to start production later this year as the country revives its mining sector, said executives at Emincar, a joint venture overseeing the project.

The $278-million Castellano mine, discovered in 1962, will produce 100,000 tonnes of zinc concentrate and 50,000 tonnes of lead concentrate annually once it is fully operational.

Current reserves support 11 years of mining, but the nearby Santa Lucia deposit could extend production for another decade. Emincar intends to exploit Santa Lucia once the mine is exhausted.

“We are reviving the small and medium-size mining sector in Cuba from this investment,” said Justo Hernández Pérez, deputy general manager at Emincar. “This is just the start.”

The Emincar joint venture was born in January 2015, when major miner Trafigura signed an agreementto develop Castellanos with the government of Cuba.

“We are now exploiting the deposit below oxide cap,” commented Emincar General Manager Jose Vila, adding that it could prove profitable to mine for gold there.

According to Reuters, many mines in the country, including a gold mine at the site of the new Castellanos mine, were abandoned in the 1990s and 2000s after the fall the Soviet Union, then a key ally of Cuba. 

Currently, Cuba is the world’s 10th-largest nickel producer, and the base metal is one of the top foreign exchange earners for the country’s beleaguered economy. And according to the US Geological Survey, the country has untapped potential in other mineral deposits.

For that reason, Cuba hopes to boost its economy through foreign financing, aiming for $2 billion in investments annually. Since the country approved a law offering investors steep tax cuts in 2014, Cuba has not been able to reach the ambitious target.

Last year, the government published dozens of opportunities to explore, exploit and commercialize precious metals, base metals and other minerals in the country. The complete portfolio included 395 projects, ranging from tourist resorts to peanut production, and amounted to $9.5 billion of investment, up from $8.2 billion in 2016.

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Securities Disclosure: I, Priscila Barrera, hold no direct investment interest in any company mentioned in this article.

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