Nickel facts

Nickel and its compounds are essential for the manufacture of countless products that we rely on daily. Reflecting this vast use, Canada’s nickel and nickel-related products are exported to more than 100 countries.

Key facts

  • Canada’s exports of nickel and nickel-based products in 2016 were valued at $4.2 billion.
  • In 2016, Canada ranked second for world mine production of nickel and fourth as a producer of refined nickel.

Learn more about nickel

Uses

Stainless steel is the largest end use for nickel, accounting for two-thirds of total consumption. Nickel is also used as an alloying agent in the manufacture of both ferrous and nonferrous metal products.

Another use is electroplating, in which a thin layer of nickel is coated onto a metal object as a decorative feature or to provide resistance to both corrosion and wear.

While nickel's use is well known in the manufacture of nickel-cadmium batteries, an important evolving use is in the production of lithium-ion batteries for electric and hybrid vehicles.

Nickel global uses, 2016

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This pie chart shows the major industrial uses of nickel as of 2016. The largest use was for stainless steel (68%), followed by alloy production (16%), electroplating (9%), metallurgical casting (3%), batteries (3%) and other miscellaneous products (1%).

Production

In 2016, Canada produced an estimated 235,700 tonnes of nickel in concentrate from mines located in Newfoundland and Labrador, Quebec, Ontario, and Manitoba. Canada also produced 158,300 tonnes of refined nickel at 4 refineries located in Fort Saskatchewan, Alberta; Thompson, Manitoba; Sudbury, Ontario; and Long Harbour, Newfoundland and Labrador.

Canadian mine production of nickel, 2007–2016 (p)

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This bar chart shows Canada’s annual mine production of nickel from 2007 to 2016. Production was 254,915 tonnes in 2007 and 235,707 tonnes in 2016.

Canadian mine production of nickel, by province, 2016 (p)
Ranking Province Thousand tonnes Percentage of total
1 Ontario 100.4 43.6%
2 Newfoundland and Labrador 57.1 24.8%
3 Quebec 52.4 22.8%
4 Manitoba 20.3 8.8%
- Total 230.2 100.0%

Canadian refined production of nickel, 2007–2016 (p)

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This bar chart shows Canada’s refined production of nickel from 2007 to 2016. Canada refined 153,500 tonnes in 2007 and 158,299 tonnes in 2016.

Canada refined production of nickel, by province, 2016 (p)

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This map of Canada shows Canada’s refined production of nickel by province in percentages in 2016. Ontario had the largest share with 43%, followed by Newfoundland and Labrador (25%), Quebec (23%), and Manitoba (9%).

International context

Find out more about mined and refined nickel production on an international scale:

Global mine production of nickel in 2016 was estimated at 2 million tonnes. Canada ranked second, with 12% of global mined production.

World mine production of nickel, by country, 2016 (p)
Ranking Country Thousand tonnes Percentage of total
1 Philippines 341.7 17.2%
2 Canada 235.7 11.8%
3 Russia 222.0 11.2%
4 New Caledonia 208.8 10.5%
5 Australia 196.2 9.9%
6 Indonesia 197.6 9.9%
7 China 90.0 4.5%
8 Brazil 86.4 4.3%
9 Cuba 51.6 2.6%
10 Colombia 50.1 2.5%
11 South Africa 49.5 2.5%
- Other countries 260.4 13.1%
- Total 1,990.0 100.0%

World mine production of nickel, 2007–2016 (p)

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This bar chart shows the world’s annual mined production of nickel from 2007 to 2016. Production was 1.6 million tonnes in 2007 and 2.0 million tonnes in 2016.

Global refined production of nickel in 2016 was estimated at 2 million tonnes. Overall, Canada ranked fourth among world producers of refined nickel. Seven countries accounted for more than 70% of world refined nickel production.

World refined production of nickel, by country, 2016 (p)
Ranking Country Thousand tonnes Percentage of total
1 China 573.4 28.9%
2 Russia 193.1 9.7%
3 Japan 191.8 9.7%
4 Canada 158.3 8.0%
5 Australia 115.8 5.8%
6 New Caledonia 96.0 4.8%
7 Norway 92.7 4.7%
8 Brazil 77.1 3.9%
- Other countries 485.3 24.5%
- Total 1,983.5 100.0%

World refined production of nickel, 2007–2016 (p)

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This bar chart shows the world’s refined production of nickel from 2007 to 2016. Production was 1.4 million tonnes in 2007 and 2.0 million tonnes in 2016.

World reserves

In 2016, total world nickel reserves, as calculated by the U.S. Geological Survey, were estimated at 78 million tonnes.

World reserves of nickel, by country, 2016 (p)

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This bar chart shows the estimated world reserves of nickel by country in millions of tonnes in 2016. Australia had the largest tonnage with 19.0, followed by Brazil (10.0), Russia (7.6), New Caledonia (6.7), Cuba (5.5), the Philippines (4.8), Indonesia (4.5), South Africa (3.7), Canada (2.9), China (2.5) and other countries (10.8).

Trade

Canada’s total trade in nickel and nickel-based products in 2016 was valued at $4.9 billion. Exports of nickel and nickel-based products were valued at $4.2 billion; imports were valued at $647 million.

Canada exported 136,000 tonnes of unwrought nickel valued at $1.9 billion in 2016. The United States imported 39% of this export trade, while 24% was destined for China/Hong Kong, 9% went to the Netherlands and the remainder was shipped to some 22 countries.

Prices

Nickel prices rose steadily throughout 2016, starting in January at US$8,528 per tonne and ending in December at US$11,081 per tonne.

Nickel, monthly average prices, 2007–2016

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This line chart shows the average price in U.S. dollars per tonne of nickel from 2007 to 2016. The average annual price of nickel averaged $36,205.25 per tonne in 2007. In 2016, the average annual price was $9,645.92 per tonne and the monthly prices of nickel were: January, $8,528; February, $8,347; March, $8,751; April, $8,891; May, $8,738; June, $8,962; July, $10,295; August, $10,407; September, $10,244; October, $10,316; November, $11,191; and December, $11,081.

Notes and sources

(p) preliminary

Totals may be different because of rounding.

All dollars are Canadian unless otherwise indicated.

Uses

  • Nickel, global uses, 2016
    • International Nickel Study Group

Production

  • Canadian mine production of nickel, 2007–2016 (p)
    • Natural Resources Canada
  • Canadian mine production of nickel, by province, 2016 (p)
    • Natural Resources Canada
  • Canadian refined production of nickel, 2007–2016 (p)
    • Natural Resources Canada
  • Canadian refined production of nickel, by province, 2016 (p)
    • Natural Resources Canada

International context

  • World mine production of nickel, by country, 2016 (p)
    • International Nickel Study Group
  • World mine production of nickel, 2007–2016 (p)
    • International Nickel Study Group
  • World refined production of nickel, by country, 2016 (p)
    • International Nickel Study Group
  • World refined production of nickel, 2007–2016 (p)
    • International Nickel Study Group
  • World reserves of nickel, by country, 2016 (p)
    • U.S. Geological Survey

Prices

  • Nickel, monthly average prices, 2007–2016
    • London Metal Exchange