Sherritt aims to capitalize on favourable cobalt, nickel outlook

Sherritt’s 50%-owned nickel and cobalt open pit mine at Moa Bay in eastern Cuba. Source: Sherritt International Inc.

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Sherritt’s 50%-owned nickel and cobalt open pit mine at Moa Bay in eastern Cuba. Source: Sherritt International Inc.

Sherritt International Inc. [S-TSX] on Wednesday May 30 released an update on its recent progress against the company’s strategic priorities for 2018. The priorities include strengthening the balance sheet, optimizing opportunities in the Cuban energy business and upholding global leadership in finished nickel and cobalt production.

The Toronto-based company is a world leader in the mining and refining of nickel and cobalt from lateritic ores with projects and operations in Canada, Cuba and Madagascar. Sherritt is the largest independent energy producer in Cuba, with extensive oil and power operations across the island. Its key asset is a nickel mining joint venture with the Cuban government.

The 50/50 partnership, formed in 1994, involves the extraction and processing of nickel and cobalt from an open pit mine at Moa Bay in eastern Cuba.

The laterite nickel ore is processed on site, producing mixed sulphides (containing nickel and cobalt) that are shipped in bags to Halifax, Nova Scotia and then transported by rail to a refinery in Fort Saskatchewan, Alberta.

Sherritt licenses its proprietary technologies and provides metallurgical services to mining and refining operations worldwide.

Key highlights of Serritt’s Q2 initiatives:

  • Reduced its debt by purchasing for cancellation an additional $10 million of outstanding debentures in the open market in May.
  • Implementing a new initiative to improve mining fleet availability at the Moa joint venture. The initiative, which will involve the procurement of new trucks and equipment with availability guaranteed by the supplier, is expected to result in lower maintenance and capital costs over time.
  • Completed the replacement of an economizer on acid plant 1 located at Ambatovy consistent with expected timelines. The replacement is part of Sherritt’s ongoing efforts to improve Ambatovy’s production stability and asset reliability. With the completion of the economizer replacement, Sherritt anticipates improved finished nickel and cobalt production at Ambatovy for the second half of 2018, consistent with previous guidance.

“Combined, our recent efforts demonstrate that we are sustaining our momentum into 2018 and strengthening our ability to capitalize on the favourable outlook for nickel and cobalt demand,” said Sherritt President and CEO David Pathe.

“With the weather and logistical challenges of Q1 now behind us, we remain focused on achieving our production and unit cost targets for the year.’’

Sherritt shares were unchanged Wednesday at $1.18 on volume of 841,485. The 52-week range is $1.87 and 74 cents.

The company recently said its Alberta-based Technologies division has successfully completed a pilot-scale demonstration of a proprietary process to upgrade bitumen. It said the process has the ability to eliminate the need for addition of diluent, a high-cost thinning agent that reduces heavy oil viscosity, and improve pipeline capacity.

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