Cuba’s dormant mining sector gets boost from public-private partnership

A team of workers from the Empresa Minera del Caribe were on track to start production at Castellanos in the former mining town of Minas de Matahambre in October and reach full production next year. 

Daniel Vanin, the project director of the joint venture, said they are preparing for about a decade of excavations at the open pit mine operation in Pinar del Rio — west of the protected Parque de Viñales.  

Vanin said that some of the additional steps to reduce the risk of pollution during the extraction include watering the roads and detailing areas with a plastic liners. 

“It’s also not something that everyone does,” Vanin said.

The small $278 million mine awakened Minas de Matahambre. Cuban officials trying to revive the mining sector released an investment portfolio that lists many more opportunities for foreign investors like this one. 

Cuba started to allow foreign investment in 1995. EMINCAR, the partnership between Geominera de Cuba and Swiss-based commodities group Trafigura working on the mine, was formed in 2012.

When the mine is fully operational in 2018, they expect it to produce 100,000 tonnes of zinc concentrate and 50,000 tonnes of lead concentrate a year. 

EMINCAR is also working at The Castellanos gold mine. They believe it holds reserves that will last for at least a decade of exploration. They also working on repairing the Santa Lucia port to send production to the port of Mariel. 

They are creating hundreds of jobs. Cuban employees earn an average monthly wage of $50 and an $80 bonus for good performance. The pay is well above the average state wage of $30. 

“This is a better working life for the workers of the municipality,” Cuban mine worker Felicia Despaine Puente said. 

Local 10 News’ Andrea Torres contributed to this story from Miami. 

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8 die in plane crash in Cuba’s western mountainous region

A Cuban military plane crashed into a hillside Saturday in the western province of Artemisa, killing eight troops on board, the government said.

Cuba’s military said in a statement that the Soviet-made AN-26 took off from the Playa Baracoa airport outside Havana at 6:38 a.m. and crashed outside the town of Candelaria, about 40 miles away.

The Aerogaviota airline’s AN-26 aircraft, which has a capacity for 39 passengers, vanished on Saturday morning. The plane, owned by the Cuban military, departed at 6:38 a.m. from the Playa Baracoa, a tourist destination about 30 minutes west of Havana.

The government-owned airline has a fleet of 22 planes and operates flights to Jamaica and charter flights to  Central America. It has been based out of Havana’s Jose Marti International Airport since 1994. The Ukrainian Antonov State Co. modified the AN-26 twin-engined aircraft. It’s a retrofitted Soviet military bomber.  

The cause of the crash remained under investigation on Saturday afternoon, according to Granma, the state-run newspaper. 

In November 2010, an AeroCaribbean flight from Santiago to Havana went down in bad weather as it flew over central Cuba, killing all 68 people aboard, including 28 foreigners, in the country’s deadliest air disaster in more than two decades.

In 1989, a chartered Cubana de Aviacion plane en route from Havana to Milan, Italy, went down shortly after takeoff, killing all 126 people on board, as well as at least two dozen on the ground.

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