The United States nickel 2012

Domestic Production and Use: The United States did not have any active nickel mines in 2010. Limited amounts of byproduct nickel were recovered from copper and palladium-platinum ores mined in the Western United States. An inclined tunnel was being driven to access a sulfide orebody in Michigan, and four other projects were in varying stages of development in Minnesota. On a monthly or annual basis, 110 facilities reported nickel consumption. The principal consuming State was Pennsylvania, followed by Kentucky, North Carolina, and Indiana. Approximately 46% of the primary nickel consumed went into stainless and alloy steel production, 34% into nonferrous alloys and superalloys, 14% into electroplating, and 6% into other uses. End uses were as follows: transportation, 30%; fabricated metal products, 14%; electrical equipment, 12%; petroleum industry, 10%; chemical industry, construction, household appliances, and industrial machinery, 8% each; and other, 2%. The estimated value of apparent primary consumption was $2.93 billion.

Recycling: About 99,000 tons of nickel was recovered from purchased scrap in 2011. This represented about 43% of
reported secondary plus apparent primary consumption for the year.
Import Sources (2007–10): Canada, 38%; Russia, 17%; Australia, 10%; Norway, 10%; and other, 25%.
Tariff: Item Number Normal Trade Relations
12-31-11
Nickel oxide, chemical grade      2825.40.0000   Free.
Ferronickel                                        7202.60.0000    Free.
Unwrought nickel, not alloyed 7502.10.0000 Free

Depletion Allowance: 22% (Domestic), 14% (Foreign).
Government Stockpile: The U.S. Government sold the last of the nickel in the National Defense Stockpile in 1999.
The U.S. Department of Energy is holding 8,800 tons of nickel ingot contaminated by low-level radioactivity plus 5,080
tons of contaminated shredded nickel scrap. Ongoing decommissioning activities at former nuclear defense sites are
expected to generate an additional 20,000 tons of nickel in shredded scrap.
Events, Trends, and Issues: The U.S. economy continued to recover from the global recession of 2008–09, but the
recovery remained weak. In 2011, U.S. production of austenitic (nickel-bearing) stainless steel increased to 1.57
million tons—slightly more than production in 2010 but 35% greater than the reduced output of 1.16 million tons in
2009. Stainless steel has traditionally accounted for two-thirds of primary nickel use worldwide, with more than onehalf of the steel going into the construction, food processing, and transportation sectors. China, the world’s leading
producer, cast a record-high 9.69 million tons of austenitic stainless steel in 2011.
Prepared by Peter H. Kuck [(703) 648-4965, pkuck@usgs.gov]

NICKEL
Nickel prices have been volatile in the aftermath of the global economic recession. In February 2011, the London
Metal Exchange (LME) cash mean for 99.8%-pure nickel peaked at $28,249 per metric ton after an 8-month recovery.
The cash price, however, began to deteriorate at that point as the European debt situation worsened and the adverse
economic effect of the March earthquake in Japan became apparent. By September, the cash price had fallen to
$20,388 per metric ton despite a gradual drawdown of stocks in LME warehouses. The average monthly LME cash
price for November 2011 was $17,879 per ton. Canadian mine production rebounded after a 12-month labor dispute
was settled in July 2010. Companies mining lateritic ore in the Philippines have been ramping up production to meet
increased demand from Chinese producers of nickel pig iron. The $5.5 billion Ambatovy mining and processing
project in east-central Madagascar was scheduled to begin producing nickel metal in early 2012. The lateritic ore was
being slurried and piped to the venture’s pressure leach plant and refinery near Toamasina. The Toamasina refinery
was designed to produce 60,000 tons per year of nickel metal. New mines also were being developed at several
locations in Brazil, Southeast Asia, and the Pacific. The Barro Alto and Onca Puma laterite projects in Brazil have
been producing ferronickel since early 2011. The $4.5 billion Goro hydrometallurgical complex in New Caledonia
began producing a nickel-cobalt intermediate for export and was scheduled to reach full production in 2013.
World Mine Production and Reserves:
Estimates of reserves for Canada, Colombia, Dominican Republic, Madagascar, and New Caledonia were revised based on new mining industry information from published sources.
Mine production
                            2010                    2011                         Reserves5

United States         —                        —                        —
Australia            170,000           180,000                24,000,000
Botswana         28,000              32,000              490,000
Brazil                59,100              83,000              8,700,000
Canada            158,000            200,000            3,300,000
China               79,000              80,000              3,000,000
Colombia         72,000              72,000              720,000
Cuba                70,000              74,000              5,500,000
Dominican Republic —                         14,000              1,000,000
Indonesia         232,000            230,000            3,900,000
Madagascar     15,000              25,000              1,600,000
New Caledonia 130,000             140,000            12,000,000
Philippines       173,000            230,000            1,100,000
Russia              269,000            280,000            6,000,000
South Africa     40,000              42,000              3,700,000
Other countries 99,000              100,000            4,600,000
World total (rounded) 1,590,000    1,800,000             80,000,000

World Resources: Identified land-based resources averaging 1% nickel or greater contain at least 130 million tons of
nickel. About 60% is in laterites and 40% is in sulfide deposits. In addition, extensive deep-sea resources of nickel are
in manganese crusts and nodules covering large areas of the ocean floor, particularly in the Pacific Ocean. The longterm decline in discovery of new sulfide deposits in traditional mining districts has forced companies to shift
exploration efforts to more challenging locations like east-central Africa and the Subarctic. In 2007, a promising highgrade sulfide resource was discovered in the James Bay Lowlands of northwestern Ontario. The development of
awaruite deposits in other parts of Canada may help alleviate any prolonged shortage of nickel concentrate. Awaruite,
a natural iron-nickel alloy, is much easier to concentrate than pentlandite, the principal sulfide of nickel.
Substitutes: To offset high and fluctuating nickel prices, engineers have been substituting low-nickel, duplex, or
ultrahigh-chromium stainless steels for austenitic grades in construction applications. Nickel-free specialty steels are
sometimes used in place of stainless steel within the power-generating and petrochemical industries. Titanium alloys
can substitute for nickel metal or nickel-based alloys in corrosive chemical environments. Cost savings in
manufacturing lithium-ion batteries allow them to compete against nickel-metal hydride in certain applications.

e Estimated. W Withheld to avoid disclosing company proprietary data. — Zero.
1 Scrap receipts – shipments by consumers + exports – imports + adjustments for consumer stock changes.
2 Apparent primary consumption + reported secondary consumption.
3 Stocks of producers, agents, and dealers held only in the United States.
4 Defined as imports – exports + adjustments for Government and industry stock changes.
5 See Appendix C for resource/reserve definitions and information concerning data sources.
6 For Australia, Joint Ore Reserves Committee (JORC) compliant reserves were only 5.5 million tons.
7 Overseas territory of France.
U.S. Geological Survey, Mineral Commodity Summaries, January 2012

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