Recent Trends in Cuba’s Mining and Petroleum Industries (United States Geological Survey – April 2015)

On December 17, 2014, President Obama announced that the United States would begin discussions to restore diplomatic relations with the Government of Cuba and embark on a longer term process of normalization of relations between the two countries.

The U.S. Government had officially severed diplomatic relations with Cuba in 1961 in response to political
changes after the Cuban Revolution. In 1962, President Kennedy declared an embargo on all trade between the United States and Cuba, which was implemented through regulations published in 1963.

On January 15, 2015, the U.S. Departments of Commerce and the Treasury published regulatory amendments to the Cuba sanctions (U.S. Department of the Treasury, 2015) in accordance with President Obama’s December 2014 policy announcement (The White House, 2014). These measures made changes in the implementation of the embargo but did not lift the embargo.

Most transactions involving Cuba, including private and public investment in mineral production, continue to be prohibited. This Fact Sheet provides information regarding the current supply of and demand for mineral commodities produced in Cuba (fig.1).


In 2014, Cuba had a population of more than 11 million people and a land area of about 111,000 square kilometers, which is comparable to the population and land area of the U.S. State of Ohio. In 2010 (the latest year for which data were available), Cuba’s per capita gross domestic product (GDP) at purchasing power parity was $10,200; this amount was three times less than that of Mississippi, which was the U.S. State
with the lowest per capita GDP (United Nations Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean, 2014;
U.S. Central Intelligence Agency, 2014).

In 2013, Cuba was estimated to be among the world’s top 10 producers of cobalt and nickel, which are the country’s leading mineral exports. Cuba exports ammonia, nitrogenous fertilizer, and zeolites to Europe and to other Latin America and Caribbean (LAC) nations, but most other mineral commodities are consumed domestically.

Production at most mineral processing facilities is significantly below those facilities’ design capacities, and the quantity of output is not sufficient to support an export market (Kuck, 2014; Shedd, 2014;
Soto-Viruet, Country Specialist, U.S. Geological Survey, unpub. data, February 2014).

About one-third of Cuba’s domestic petroleum demand is met by near-offshore and onshore production of extra heavy crude oil. Since at least 2007, the remaining two-thirds of Cuba’s petroleum demand has been met by imports from Venezuela. There is currently no deepwater production of hydrocarbons.

Cuba’s Mineral Resources and Production Facilities

Cuba hosts a variety of fuel and non-fuel mineral resources in complex geologic terranes. Its mineral endowment includes chromite deposits in preserved fragments of oceanic crust known as ophiolites, and laterite soils that developed on top of the ophiolites; these laterite soils contain the country’s most
significant reserves of cobalt and nickel.

In addition to cobalt and nickel, Cuba’s metallic mineral resources include copper and zinc in volcanogenic massive sulfide deposits, copper in porphyry deposits, iron in laterite and skarn deposits, precious metals in epithermal deposits, manganese oxide in strata-bound deposits, and tungsten in vein deposits. The country’s industrial mineral resources include currently mined, volcanically derived bentonite, feldspar, and high-purity zeolite minerals, as well as gypsum, kaolin, lime, high-grade limestone, marble, and sand from carbonate terranes. Manufactured industrial mineral products include ammonia, cement, sulfuric acid, steel, and urea.

The leading mines, mineral processing facilities, and hydrocarbon concessions in Cuba are shown in figure 1 and table 1.

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