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Alberta
Sherritt Nickel Smelter

Alberta
Sherritt Nickel Smelter

Our American cousins have a strange obsession with one of their southern neighbours, whose bearded leader has outlasted nine of their presidents. Since 1960 the guardians of freedom have attempted to maintain a cordon sanitaire around Cuba, and it's forbidden to import Cuban products into the United States. It's quite understandable how the Americans should be peeved to have a guy in a Rambo suit thumbing his nose at them from just beyond their gate, and it sets a bad example for the rest of Latin America which is expected to defer to Washington.

Alberta, Sherritt Nickel SmelterThe irony here is that few people realize that every time they cross the U.S. border with Canadian coins jingling in their pockets, they are violating the Trading With The Enemy Act and liable to fines as high as US$250,000 and 10 years in prison! That's because all Canadian five, 10, and 25 cent coins are made of Cuban nickel. After the revolution the U.S. nickel mines at Moa in eastern Cuba were nationalized, and a Canadian company is presently involved in a joint venture with the Cuban government to process and market Cuba's nickel. Much of the 70,000 metric tones of nickel produced in Cuba each year is shipped to Sherritt International's cobalt/nickel smelter at Fort Saskatchewan, Alberta. The nickel/cobalt concentrate travels by ship from Cuba to Halifax, then by rail across the continent.

The Sherritt smelter is on the north side of Fort Saskatchewan, just off Highway 15 about 35 kilometers northeast of Edmonton. There's heavy security at the gate, but you can drive into the parking lot and turn around without difficulty. From the smelter, coiled strips of Cuban nickel are sent to the Canadian Mint at Winnipeg, Manitoba, where they're made into the coins we Canadians use every day. It's all a bit odd, and our dear friends south of the 49th parallel may not be completely mistaken if they sense that there's a little thumbing going on up here too.

From the series Unknown Sights of Canada by David Stanley



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