Top Nickel Reserves by Country

Which countries have the highest nickel reserves in the world? Australia, Brazil, Russia, New Caledonia and Cuba are at the top of the list.

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Investors interested in nickel stocks are often curious about which countries produce the most nickel. After all, major producers are often home to many companies mining and exploring for the metal.

But investors should also be aware of which countries hold significant nickel reserves. Why? While many countries that produce large amounts of nickel have big nickel reserves, some countries produce little nickel but have high reserves of the metal. It’s possible that in the future they could become powerhouses in the space.

With that in mind, here’s an overview of the five countries that hold the highest nickel reserves in the world. All nickel reserves by country data is based on the US Geological Survey’s most recent report.

1. Australia

Reserves: 19 million MT

Australia holds the highest nickel reserves in the world at 19 million MT, but last year it was only the fourth-largest nickel producer in the world. In 2016, it produced 206,000 MT of the metal, down from 222,000 MT in 2015.

Some top-producing nickel mines in the country include BHP Billiton’s (NYSE:BHP,ASX;BHP,LSE:BLT) Nickel West assets, which produced 22,100 tonnes of nickel in last year’s December quarter, and First Quantum Minerals’ (TSX:FM,LSE:FQM) Ravensthorpe mine, which exports about 25,000 tonnes of nickel annually.

2. Brazil

Reserves: 10 million MT

In second place is Brazil, with total nickel reserves of 10 million MT. The country saw a drop in nickel production in 2016, with output sinking from 160,000 MT in 2015 to 142,000 MT in 2016. It was the seventh-largest nickel producer in the world last year.

Vale (NYSE:VALE) is based in Brazil, and is a major nickel producer in the country. Other companies mining and exploring for the base metal in Brazil include Anglo American (LSE:AAL) and Horizonte Minerals (TSX:HZM).

3. Russia

Reserves: 7.6 million MT

Russia, which was the world’s second-largest nickel producer in 2016, holds a vast amount of reserves at 7.6 million MT. The country saw a slight fall in nickel production last year, putting out 256,000 MT compared to 269,000 MT in 2015.

Norilsk Nickel (MCX:GMKN), one of the world’s largest nickel and palladium producers, recently said it plans to increase its nickel output in 2017. It expects to produce 206,000 to 211,000 tonnes of the metal from Russian feedstock.

4. New Caledonia

Reserves: 6.7 million MT

New Caledonia produces less nickel than Russia, but nevertheless has a similar level of reserves at 6.7 million MT. Unlike most other countries on the list, New Caledonia saw an increase in nickel production in 2016; its output rose from 186,000 MT in 2015 to 205,000 MT in 2016, and it was the fifth-largest producer of the metal for the year.

The country’s South Pacific French Territory has resisted selling nickel ore directly to large nickel-consuming countries such as China in order to preserve its domestic smelting and refining industry, which is one of its key sources of revenue.

5. Cuba

Reserves: 5.5 million MT

Cuba is not a major producer of nickel, but its reserves of the metal stand at 5.5 million MT. According to Reuters, nickel is one of the top foreign exchange earners for Cuba’s beleaguered economy, and the country averaged production of around 74,000 tonnes in the decade after 2000. Since then its nickel export earnings have been hit by plant obsolescence and low nickel prices.

More nickel reserves by country

Australia, Brazil, Russia, New Caledonia and Cuba have the highest nickel reserves in the world, but many other countries also hold significant reserves of the metal. Here’s a quick look at where other nations stand:

6. Philippines — 4.8 million MT

7. Indonesia — 4.5 million MT

8. South Africa — 3.7 million MT

9. Canada — 2.9 million MT

10. China — 2.5 million MT

11. Guatemala — 1.8 million MT

12. Madagascar — 1.6 million MT

13. Colombia — 1.1 million MT

14. United States — 160,000 MT

Various other countries account for nickel reserves totaling 6.5 million MT, and the world total stands at 78 million MT.

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Securities Disclosure: I, Priscila Barrera, hold no direct investment interest in any company mentioned in this article.

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