Indonesia, the Philippines and Russia were the top nickel-producing countries in 2021. Interested in nickel investing? Find out which other nations made the list.
The future for the global nickel market looks bright as the electric vehicle (EV) industry continues to grow exponentially — this could spur further mining activity in the world’s top nickel-producing countries.
Demand for nickel as a battery metal and an important component in stainless steel fabrication continues to grow, and companies and countries alike are eager to jump on the nickel production bandwagon and make their mark.
With that in mind, it’s worth knowing about the top hot spots for nickel production. Here the Investing News Network presents the top nickel-producing countries of 2021, based on the latest US Geological Survey data.
Mine production: 1 million MT
Claiming first place for nickel production, Indonesia is a prime example of a country wanting to get in on the exploding market for nickel. Having grown tremendously from 2017’s production of 345,000 metric tons (MT) to hit 1 million MT in 2021, the country also hosts 21 million MT in reserves.
Indonesia is actively building out its EV battery industry. The country’s close proximity to China, the world’s current leader in EV manufacturing, makes for an ideal setup. In May 2021, the nation welcomed the commissioning of its first plant to process nickel for use in EV batteries. Seven more such projects are reportedly in the pipeline, according to the Center for Strategic and International Studies.
Mine production: 370,000 MT
The Philippines has been one of the top nickel-producing countries and a nickel ore exporter for quite some time. After taking a small hit between 2017 and 2018, when nickel production fell from 366,000 MT to 340,000 MT, nickel mining in the Philippines increased its output to 420,000 MT in 2019. However, the upward trend was short-lived as the country continues to deal with record rainfall that has flooded mining operations.
Another country with close proximity to China, the Philippines currently has 30 nickel mines, including Nickel Asia's Rio Tuba, one of the nation’s top nickel ore producers. Commodity analysts with S&P Global Market Intelligence have forecasted that mined nickel production in the Philippines may rise at a compound annual growth rate of 9 percent between 2021 and 2025 to reach about 500,000 MT.
Mine production: 250,000 MT
Even though it holds the third spot on this list, Russia has seen its nickel production drop in the past few years. In 2018, the nation’s nickel output totaled 272,000 MT, but it came in at 250,000 MT in 2021.
Russia’s Norilsk Nickel (OTC Pink:NILSY,MCX:GMKN) is one of the world’s largest nickel and palladium producers. The firm plans to invest US$35 billion into energy infrastructure upgrades over the next decade in the hopes of increasing its mining output by 2030.
4. New Caledonia
Mine production: 190,000 MT
This French country just off the coast of Australia has also seen its nickel production decrease in recent years, dropping from 220,000 MT in 2019 to 190,000 MT in 2021.
New Caledonia has 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 MT of ore to China. The country’s economy is now at risk as it depends heavily on the price of nickel.
In 2020, major miner Vale (NYSE:VALE) sold its interest in the Goro nickel mine in New Caledonia. Today, provincial authorities and local interests hold a 51 percent interest in the mine, while global commodities trader Trafigura and EV maker Tesla (NASDAQ:TSLA) also hold significant interests.
Mine production: 160,000 MT
Australia, another of the top nickel-producing countries, saw its production decrease from 180,000 MT in 2019 to 160,000 MT in 2021. Some top-producing players in the country include BHP (NYSE:BHP,ASX:BHP,LSE:BHP) with its Nickel West division.
After nickel’s price crash from 2014 to 2016, a number of mines closed shop. However, as the commodity has recovered, miners down under are giving the base metal another chance. Those include 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: 130,000 MT
Canada’s nickel production has declined from 180,000 MT in 2019 to 130,000 MT in 2021. The country’s Sudbury Basin is the second largest supplier of nickel ore in the world, and Vale’s Sudbury operation is located there.
Another key nickel producer in Canada is Glencore (LSE:GLEN,OTC Pink:GLCNF), which owns the Raglan mine in Quebec, as well as Sudbury Integrated Nickel Operations in Ontario. The latter’s operations include the Nickel Rim South mine, the Fraser mine, the Strathcona mill and the Sudbury smelter.
Mine production: 120,000 MT
China’s nickel production has remained relatively consistent in recent years. In addition to being one of the top nickel-producing countries, China is the world’s leading producer of nickel pig iron, which is a low-grade ferronickel used in stainless steel. Jinchuan Group International Resources (HKEX:2362) is the parent company of Jinchuan Group, 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.
Mine production: 100,000 MT
Unlike many of the nickel producing countries on this list, Brazil’s nickel production has actually increased in recent years, climbing from 74,400 MT in 2019 to 100,000 MT in 2021.
Vale, a major producer based in Brazil, sold the Jaguar nickel project in the Carajás mineral province to Centaurus Metals (ASX:CTM,OTCQX:CTTZF) in April 2020. The project hosts a resource of 40.4 million MT at 0.78 percent nickel, totaling 315,000 MT of contained nickel. Jaguar was one of three mining projects selected by the Brazilian government to receive support in obtaining environmental licenses.
9. United States
Mine production: 18,000 MT
Lastly, US nickel has increased from 2019’s mark of 14,000 MT to 18,000 MT in 2021.
The Eagle mine is the only primary nickel-mining project in the US. The mine, which is located on the Yellow Dog Plains in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, is a small, high-grade nickel-mining and copper-mining project owned by Lundin Mining (TSX:LUN,OTC Pink:LUNMF).
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Securities Disclosure: I, Melissa Pistilli, hold no direct investment interest in any company mentioned in this article.
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