Nickel (Ni) was first isolated as a distinct element in the middle of the 18th century, but it initially had no clear use. Today however, it is in high demand. It is of primary importance in the manufacture of steel alloys and has played a major role in the development of the chemical and aerospace industries. It is a hard, silver-white metal with a high melting point, which at 1452°C is nearly as high as that for iron.
There is estimated to be about 140 million tons of nickel available in identified deposits.
Nickel-bearing deposits come in two types:
Today, nickel sulphide deposits are the primary source of mined nickel – about 58% of the world’s nickel production comes from nickel sulphide and about 42% of mined nickel comes from nickel laterite deposits.
The trend of future nickel production is changing because of the current lack of high quality nickel sulphide exploration targets. In fact, nickel laterites are most likely to be developed as the world’s future primary nickel sources.
Russia is the world’s leading country for nickel production and Russian mining giant, Norilsk Nickel, is the world’s largest producer.
Canada is the second largest nickel producing country in the world, whereby most of its nickel comes from the Thompson Nickel Belt in Manitoba, the Sudbury Basin of Ontario and the Ungava peninsula of Quebec.
Australia is the world’s third most important producer of nickel. The country’s nickel exports primarily go to Europe, Japan and the United States.