Sherritt CEO sees brighter future in Cuba – by Lisa Wright (Toronto Star – July 29, 2015)

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The Toronto miner reports weak Q2 results amid severe downturn in nickel, oil

Toronto-based miner Sherritt International Corp. is taking a beating as nickel and oil prices plummet, but the chief executive sees a silver lining for his company as U.S. and Cuba relations continue to thaw.

David Pathe, who delivered weak second-quarter results Wednesday, said he visited the firm’s operations in the island nation last week as the U.S. reopened its embassy in Havana after 50 years under renewed diplomatic ties.

“There’s a tremendous amount of optimism in Cuba at the moment, and a lot more interest in Cuba internationally,” Pathe said in an interview. “We’ve been in Cuba for over 20 years and it’s a remarkably stable place to do business,” he said.

Sherritt produces approximately two-thirds of Cuba’s oil and also owns a 50 per cent interest in the Moa nickel and cobalt joint venture with the Cuban government, which includes mining, processing and refining operations.

However, as the Communist-ruled island’s largest foreign investor by far, Sherritt has struggled with “negative connotations” as the Canadian miner befriended Fidel Castro and continued to extract nickel, cobalt and oil there amid what he called a “crippling” economic embargo with the U.S.

While things are opening up on the diplomatic side, Pathe said progress is still slow on the bigger issues like ending the embargo and repealing the Helms-Burton Act, which for 19 years has barred Sherritt directors and executives including Pathe from doing business or even travelling in the U.S.

“Both would be a big benefit to us,” he told analysts on a conference call.

“I think it would change the way our assets are viewed and remove some of the stigma that, from our experience, has been somewhat overblown, and that has the potential to create new opportunities for us,” he said.

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