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Cuba says nickel now top foreign exchange earner
The Cuban nickel industry surpassed tourism as the country's top foreign exchange earner for the first time in 2007, an economic commentator said on state-run television on Tuesday.

"Cuba's production of between 75,000 and 76,000 tonnes meant revenues of around $2.7 billion, while tourism earned around $2.1 to $2.2 billion," Ariel Terrero, considered the best informed economic commentator on state-run television, said.

Terrero confirmed unrefined nickel plus cobalt production should reach a record 80,000 tonnes this year.

"There are plans to increase production at the Pedro Soto Alba plant, a joint venture with Canada, by 4,000 tonnes, an investment that began some time ago and which should come on line beginning this year," he said.

Joint venture partner Sherritt International (S.TO: Quote, Profile, Research) has announced plans to add 16,000 tonnes to the plant's capacity, 4,000 tonnes in 2008, another 9,000 tonnes in 2009 and a final 3,000 tonnes in 2011.

Sherritt partner, state-run Cubaniquel, operates two older plants in eastern Holguin province where the joint venture is located, exporting the product mainly to Europe and China.

The three plants have operated at capacity for a number of years.

The Communist-run Caribbean island is one of the world's largest nickel producers and supplies 10 percent of the world's cobalt, according to the Basic Industry Ministry.


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