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Nickel facts

Nickel and its compounds are essential in manufacturing countless products we rely on in our daily lives. Reflecting this wide variety of uses, Canada's nickel and nickel-related products are exported to more than 100 countries.

Key facts

  • In 2020, Canada produced 167,000 tonnes of nickel and ranked sixth in the world mine production.
  • Canada's exports of nickel and nickel-based products in 2020 were valued at $3.9 billion.
  • An important evolving use of nickel is in production of lithium-ion batteries for electric and hybrid vehicles.

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 metal products that contain iron and those that do not.

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

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

Nickel, global uses, 2020

donut chart
Text version

This donut chart shows the major industrial uses of nickel as of 2020. The largest use was for stainless steel (72%), followed by alloy production (12%), electroplating (6%), batteries (6%), metallurgical castings (2%) and other miscellaneous products (2%).

Production

In 2020, Canada produced an estimated 167,243 tonnes of nickel in concentrate from mines located in Ontario, Quebec, Newfoundland and Labrador, and Manitoba. Canada also produced 124,043 tonnes of refined nickel at three refineries located in Fort Saskatchewan, Alberta; Sudbury, Ontario; and Long Harbour, Newfoundland and Labrador.

Consult a map of producing Canadian mines

Canadian mine production of nickel, 2011–2020 (p)

bar graph
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This bar graph shows Canada's annual mine production of nickel from 2011 to 2020. Canada mined 211,417 tonnes of nickel in 2011. Production fluctuated around 200,000 tonnes and reached a peak of 230,210 tonnes in 2016. Production then decreased to 177,867 tonnes in 2018 before increasing to 193,057 tonnes in 2019 and decreasing to 167,243 tonnes in 2020.

Canadian mine production of nickel, by province, 2020 (p)
Ranking Province Thousand tonnes Percentage of total
1 Ontario 64.9 38.8%
2 Quebec 55.2 33.0%
3 Newfoundland and Labrador 33.0 19.7%
4 Manitoba 14.2 8.5%
Total   167.2 100.0%

Canadian refined production of nickel, 2011–2020 (p)

bar graph
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This bar graph shows Canada's refined production of nickel from 2011 to 2020. Canada refined 142,445 tonnes of nickel in 2011, rising to 146,850 tonnes in 2012, generally increased to 158,299 tonnes in 2016, declining thereafter to 124,043 refined tonnes in 2020 (p).

International context

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

Global mine production of nickel in 2020 was estimated at 2.5 million tonnes by the U.S. Geological Survey. Indonesia was the largest producer at 760,000 tonnes, or 30.4% of global mined production. Canada ranked sixth, with 6.7% of the global total.

World mine production of nickel, by country, 2020 (p)
Ranking Country Thousand tonnes Percentage of total
1 Indonesia 760 30.4%
2 Philippines 320 12.8%
3 Russia 280 11.2%
4 New Caledonia 200 8.0%
5 Australia 170 6.8%
6 Canada 167 6.7%
7 China 120 4.8%
8 Brazil 73 2.9%
9 Cuba 49 2.0%
- Other countries 353 14.1%
Total   2,500 100.0%

World mine production of nickel, 2011–2020 (p)

bar graph
Text version

This bar graph shows the world's annual mined production of nickel from 2011 to 2020. Production was 1.6 million tonnes in 2011, then increased to a peak of 2.6 million tonnes in 2013. This was followed by a decrease to 2.1 million tonnes by 2016, recovery to 2.7 million tonnes in 2019 and a small decrease to 2.5 million tonnes in 2020.

World reserves

In 2020, total world nickel reserves were estimated to be 94 million tonnes by the U.S. Geological Survey.

World reserves of nickel, by country, 2020 (p)

bar graph
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This bar graph shows the estimated world reserves of nickel by country in millions of tonnes in 2020. Indonesia had the largest tonnage (21.0 million tonnes), followed by Australia (20.0 million tonnes), Brazil (16.0 million tonnes), Russia (6.9 million tonnes), Cuba (5.5 million tonnes), the Philippines (4.8 million tonnes), Canada (2.8 million tonnes), China (2.8 million tonnes), the United States (0.1 million tonnes) and other countries (14.0 million tonnes).

Trade

Canada's total trade in nickel and nickel-based products in 2020 was valued at $4.7 billion. Exports of nickel and nickel-based products were valued at $3.9 billion. Imports were valued at $841.4 million.

Canada exported 107,128 tonnes of unwrought nickel valued at $2.0 billion in 2020. The top five export destinations were the United States (50%), China (14%), the Netherlands (12%), Belgium (5%) and Japan (4%).

Prices

The price of nickel per tonne has fluctuated over the last decade. The average monthly price per tonne peaked at US$22,910 in 2011, declined to US$15,032 in 2013. The price recovered in 2014 to US$16,893 before again decreasing in 2015 and 2016 to US$ 9,595. The price rose for the next three years to reach US$13,914 in 2019 before decreasing slightly in 2020 to US$13,787.

Nickel, monthly average nominal US$ per tonne prices, 2011–2020

line graph
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This line graph shows the nominal monthly average price in US dollars per tonne of nickel from 2011 to 2020. The price of nickel averaged US$22,910 per tonne in 2011, decreased steadily to US$9,595 per tonne in 2016. The average price then increased to US$13,914 per tonne in 2019 before decreasing slightly to US$13,787 per tonne in 2020. The lowest monthly price in 2020 was US$11,804 in April while the highest was US$16,823 in December.

Notes and sources

(p) preliminary

Totals may be different because of rounding.

All dollars are Canadian unless otherwise indicated.

Uses

  • Nickel, global uses, 2020
    • Wood Mackenzie

Production

  • Canadian mine production of nickel, 2010–2020 (p)
    • Natural Resources Canada
  • Canadian mine production of nickel, by province, 2020 (p)
    • Natural Resources Canada
  • Canadian refined production of nickel, 2010–2020 (p)
    • Natural Resources Canada

International context

  • World mine production of nickel, by country, 2020 (p)
    • U.S. Geological Survey, Mineral Commodity Summaries, January 2021
  • World mine production of nickel, 2011–2020 (p)
    • U.S. Geological Survey, Mineral Commodity Summaries, January 2021
  • World reserves of nickel, by country, 2020 (p)
    • U.S. Geological Survey, Mineral Commodity Summaries, January 2021

Trade

  • Natural Resources Canada; Statistics Canada
    • Mineral trade includes ores, concentrates, and semi- and final-fabricated mineral products
    • Unwrought nickel corresponds to HS code 750210

Prices

  • Nickel, monthly average nominal US$ per tonne prices, 2011–2020
    • World Bank Commodity Price Data (The Pink Sheet)
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