Indonesia, the Philippines, and New Caledonia were the top nickel producing countries in 2018. Find out which other nations made the list.
As the electric vehicle (EV) industry continues to boom, nickel prices have recently been soaring.
With the commodity continuing to grow, companies and countries alike have been eager to jump on the production bandwagon.
Having said that, it’s worth keeping in mind which countries have the highest nickel production. Scroll on to see our list of the 10 top nickel producing countries of 2018, based on the most recent data from the US Geological Survey.
Mine production: 560,000 MT
Claiming first place for 2018 production, Indonesia has been a prime example of a country wanting to get in on the nickel hype. In early 2019, it was reported that the country’s nickel industry could soon overshadow palm oil, Indonesia’s second-largest export.
With the country’s close proximity to China, the world’s current leader in EV manufacturing, it makes for an ideal setup. Having grown tremendously from 2017’s production of 345,000 MT, the country also hosts 21 million metric tonnes in reserves.
Mine production: 340,000 MT
The Philippines has been a top nickel producer and nickel ore exporter for quite some time. However, the major nation took a small hit between 2017 and 2018 as nickel production fell from 366,000 MT to 340,000 MT.
Another country with close proximity to China, the Philippines currently has 30 nickel mines. However, reports surfaced earlier this year from major producer DMCI Mining that it would be in for a tough 2019 with the government suspension of two of its mines.
One has since reopened, but the other remains shuttered; the two collectively account for 2 percent of the country’s nickel output.
3. New Caledonia
Mine production: 210,000 MT
New Caledonia actually ties with Russia in nickel production for 2018. The French country just off the coast of Australia saw production drop slightly from 2017, falling from a previous output of 215,000 MT to 210,000 MT.
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.
In late 2018, major miner Vale (NYSE:VALE) announced that it would be investing $500 million into its New Caledonia nickel mine between 2019 and 2022. While the company had originally been looking for a joint-venture partner, it claimed to be ready to go it alone for the sake of rising demand.
Mine production: 210,000 MT
Tied with New Caledonia, Russia also saw a small drop in production from 2017; having produced 214,000 MT previously, 2018 saw the nation’s output hit 210,000 MT in 2018.
Norilsk Nickel (MCX:GMKN), one of the world’s largest nickel and palladium producers, has performed well thus far in 2019. In a production report for the company’s H1 2019 results, total nickel output increased 6 percent year-on-year (YOY) to 110,000 tonnes. Meanwhile, output from Russian feed increased 5 percent YOY to 108,000 tonnes.
Mine production: 170,000 MT
Australia’s nickel production decreased from 179,000 MT in 2017 to 170,000 MT in 2018. Some top-producing players in the country include BHP (NYSE:BHP,ASX;BHP,LSE:BLT) with its 100-percent-owned Nickel West division. The company recently announced its plans to continue growing and investing in the operation as demand for nickel rages on.
After nickel’s devastating price crash from 2014 to 2016, a number of mines closed shop. However, as the commodity’s recovered, miners down under are giving the base metal another chance. Included in that is Mincor Resources (ASX:MCR,OTC Pink:MCRZF), which has been actively working on a “nickel restart strategy” involving four deposits in Western Australia’s Kambalda region.
Mine production: 160,000 MT
Canada saw a significant drop in nickel production from 2017 to 2018; having produced 214,000 MT in the former, 2018 saw output of 160,000 MT. The country’s Sudbury Basin is the second-largest supplier of nickel ore in the world, and Vale’s 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.
Mine production: 110,000 MT
From 2017 to 2018, China’s nickel production grew from 103,000 MT to 110,000 MT. According to Reuters, China is the world’s leading producer of nickel pig iron (NPI), 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.
China also plays a large role in nickel pricing due to the commodity’s role in stainless steel production, which primarily takes place in the Asian nation. Experts told the Investing News Network that growth of NPI supply had reduced market deficits, which put downward pressure on the base metal’s price point.
Mine production: 80,000 MT
Brazil saw small growth in nickel production in 2018, with output rising from 78,600 MT to 80,000 MT. While Vale is a major producer based in Brazil, the company recently entered an agreement to potentially swap out its Jaguar nickel project in the Carajás mineral province for Centaurus Metals’ (ASX:CTM) Salobo West copper–gold asset.
The project hosts a resource of 40.4 million tonnes at 0.78 percent nickel, totaling 315,000 tonnes of contained nickel.
Mine production: 53,000 MT
Climbing the ranks of nickel production was Cuba, which gained a small boost from 2017’s output of 52,800 MT to 53,000 MT in 2018. 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, revenue from nickel exports has trended downwards over the last few years on the back of lowered production and prices. The country exports to China, Europe and Canada.
Mine production: 49,000 MT
Lastly, Guatemalan nickel output fell from 2017’s mark of 53,700 MT to 49,000 MT in 2018.
The Fenix mine in El Estor is the largest mine in the country, and is privately owned by the Solway Group. However, Guatemalan officials recently suspended work at the major mine at the request of indigenous campaigners on the basis of its environmental impact.
This is an updated version of an article originally published by the Investing News Network in 2016.
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Securities Disclosure: I, Olivia Da Silva, hold no direct investment interest in any company mentioned in this article.