10 Top Countries for Nickel Production

- April 5th, 2018

Indonesia, the Philippines, and Canada were the top countries for nickel production in 2017. Find out which other nations made the list.

Nickel prices experienced a rollercoaster in 2017, buffeted by events in Indonesia and the Philippines.

Overall, however, prices ticked upward, and many believe 2018 will bring more gains. Some are even predicting that nickel will become the new cobalt within the electric vehicle story. A supply deficit is expected to persist this year, with prices continuing to trend upward.

With that in mind, it’s worth being aware of which countries have the highest nickel production. Scroll on to see our list of the 10 top nickel-producing countries of 2017, based on the most recent data from the US Geological Survey.

1. Indonesia

Mine production: 400,000 MT

Indonesia experienced a massive jump in nickel production last year, with its output increasing from 199,000 MT in 2016 to 400,000 MT in 2017. Once in the top spot, the country banned exports of nickel in 2014, and production dropped significantly, along with its rank in the top-producers list.

Finally, in January 2017, the country relaxed its ban on low-grade nickel ore exports in an attempt to boost its economy. Under the new rules, miners can export up to 5.2 million tonnes of nickel ore a year. There are rules accompanying the relaxation on Indonesian nickel ore exports, but they haven’t stopped the country’s nickel production from making a significant rebound.

2. Philippines

Mine production: 230,000 MT

The Philippines has been a top nickel producer and nickel ore exporter for quite some time. But last year they country’s nickel production fell to 230,000 MT from 347,000 MT in 2016.

That’s likely due to the fact that 23 mines were ordered to shut down in early 2017 by former Environment and Natural Resources Secretary Regina Lopez. Lopez was ousted from her position in May and replaced with Roy Cimatu. Cimatu is upholding President Rodrigo Duterte’s plan to ban open-pit mines, and has said that the government will punish mining companies for regulation breaches.

3. Canada

Mine production: 210,000 MT

Canada saw a decrease in nickel production from 2016 to 2017, producing 210,000 MT of nickel last year. The country’s Sudbury Basin is the second-largest supplier of nickel ore in the world, and Vale’s (NYSE:VALE) Sudbury operation is located there. Every year it produces about 65,000 MT of the metal.

Another major nickel producer in Canada is Glencore (LSE:GLEN), which owns the Raglan mine in Quebec as well as Sudbury Integrated Nickel Operations in Sudbury. The latter’s operations include the Nickel Rim South mine, the Fraser mine, the Strathcona mill and the Sudbury smelter.

4. New Caledonia

Mine production: 210,000 MT

New Caledonia actually ties with Canada in nickel production for 2017. Unlike most other countries on this list, New Caledonia saw an increase in nickel production last year — its output rose from 207,000 MT in 2016 to 210,000 MT in 2017.

New Caledonia resisted selling nickel ore directly to large nickel-consuming countries such as China in the past, in order to preserve its domestic smelting and refining industry, which is a key source of revenue. However, in December 2016, the New Caledonian government approved requests from nickel miners to export over 2 million additional tonnes of ore to China. The country’s economy is now at risk as it depends heavily on the price of nickel.

Vale has been attempting to sell 20 to 40 percent of its nickel mine in the country due to profitability issues. Since there have been no viable buyers, it’s considering mothballing the mine. That will mean the loss of thousands of jobs, and unsurprisingly is being met with opposition from local politicians.

5. Australia

Mine production: 190,000 MT

Australia’s nickel production decreased from 204,000 MT in 2016 to 190,000 MT in 2017. Some top-producing players in the country include BHP Billiton (NYSE:BHP,ASX;BHP,LSE:BLT) with its 100-percent-owned Nickel West Kwinana refinery, which produced 85,100 tonnes of nickel in the 2017 financial year, an 8-percent increase year-on-year. According to its latest annual report, the “Venus deposit has the potential to support the extension of the expected life of Nickel West to FY2032.”

There’s also First Quantum Minerals (TSX:FM,LSE:FQM) with its Ravensthorpe mine, which was exporting about 25,000 tonnes of nickel annually until a decision was made in September 2017 to suspend operations due to market conditions. First Quantum will review market conditions regularly to see if it is worth recommencing operations.

6. Russia

Mine production: 180,000 MT

Russia also saw another fall in nickel production last year, putting out 180,000 MT compared to 222,000 MT the previous year. Norilsk Nickel (MCX:GMKN), one of the world’s largest nickel and palladium producers, lived up to its guidance for 2017. The company produced 210,000 tonnes of the metal from Russian feedstock in 2017, a 7-percent increase year over year, according to its annual report.

7. Brazil

Mine production: 140,000 MT

Brazil saw a drop in nickel production in 2017, with output sinking from 160,000 MT in 2016 to 140,000 MT in 2017. Vale is based in Brazil and is a major nickel producer in the country. Activities at one of Vale’s nickel mines in Brazil was suspended in September 2017 due to a court ruling that the mine was negatively affecting the nearby indigenous population.

Vale claimed in its defense that the health problems affecting the locals were due to elements in a nearby river that preceded its project. The company has vowed to appeal this ruling.

8. China

Mine production: 98,000 MT

China’s nickel production remained the same in 2017, coming in at 98,000 MT. According to Reuters, China is the world’s leading producer of nickel pig iron, which is a low-grade ferronickel used in stainless steel. Jinchuan Group International (HKEX:2362) is the parent company of Jinchuan Group, which is a large nickel producer in China. According to Reuters, Jinchuan is gearing up production in anticipation for greater demand springing from the electric car industry.

9. Guatemala

Mine production: 68,000 MT

Guatemala’s nickel output increased by 14,000 MT in 2016, jumping from 54,000 MT to 68,000 MT. The Fenix mine in El Estor is the largest mine in the country, and is privately owned by the Solway Group. The company hopes to increase the mine’s output capacity to 22,000 MT of contained nickel annually. Solway hasn’t released its production or financial figures for 2017 yet.

10. Cuba

Mine production: 51,000 MT

Finally, Cuba’s nickel production remained almost flat in 2017, coming in at 51,000 MT. According to Reuters, nickel is one of the top foreign exchange earners for Cuba’s troubled economy, and the country averaged production of around 74,000 tonnes annually in the decade after 2000. Since then, its nickel export earnings have been hit by plant obsolescence and low nickel prices. The country exports to China, Europe and Canada.

This is an updated version of an article originally published by the Investing News Network in 2016.

Don’t forget to follow us @INN_Resource for real-time news updates!

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

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3 responses to “10 Top Countries for Nickel Production

  1. Looking for a company that may finance nickel exploration in the Philippines. We have identified location and can deliver sufficient metric tons of nickel for 10 years.

  2. Looking for a company that may finance nickel exploration in the Philippines. We have identified location and can deliver sufficient metric tons of nickel for 10 years.

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