Nickel facts

Nickel and its compounds are essential for the manufacture of countless products that 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

  • Canada's exports of nickel and nickel-based products in 2018 were valued at $4.2 billion
  • In 2018, Canada ranked fifth in the world for mine production and for the production 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 non-ferrous metal products.

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 both corrosion and wear.

While nickel is well known as a component 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, 2018

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This donut chart shows the major industrial uses of nickel as of 2018. The largest use was for stainless steel (69%), followed by alloy production (14%), electroplating (6%), batteries (4%), other miscellaneous products (4%), and metallurgical castings (3%).

Production

In 2018, Canada produced an estimated 180,000 tonnes of nickel in concentrate from mines located in Newfoundland and Labrador, Quebec, Ontario and Manitoba. Canada also produced 133,200 tonnes of refined nickel at four refineries located in Fort Saskatchewan, Alberta; Thompson, Manitoba; Sudbury, Ontario; and Long Harbour, Newfoundland and Labrador.

Canadian mine production of nickel, 2009–2018 (p)

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This bar graph shows Canada's annual mine production of nickel from 2009 to 2018. Canada mined 136,594 tonnes of nickel in 2009. Production increased to 219,025 tonnes in 2011 and then decreased slightly to 211,701 tonnes in 2012. Production then increased to a peak of 235,707 tonnes in 2016 before falling to 180,000 tonnes in 2018.

Canadian mine production of nickel, by province, 2018 (p)
Ranking Province Thousand tonnes Percentage of total
1 Ontario 65.7 37.4%
2 Quebec 37.7 31.1%
3 Newfoundland and Labrador 54.6 21.4%
4 Manitoba 17.8 10.1%
Total   175.8 100.0%

Canadian refined production of nickel, 2009–2018 (p)

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This bar graph shows Canada's refined production of nickel from 2009 to 2018. Canada refined 116,900 tonnes of nickel in 2009 and 105,400 tonnes in 2010. Production increased to 160,300 tonnes in 2013 where it stayed relatively stable at an average of 157,225 tonnes until 2016 before reaching a peak of 170,000 tonnes in 2017. Production fell to 133,200 tonnes in 2018.

Canada refined production of nickel, by province, 2018 (p)

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This map of Canada shows Canada's refined production of nickel by province in percentages in 2018. Ontario had the largest share with (48%), followed by Newfoundland and Labrador (29%), Alberta (12%) and Manitoba (11%).

International context

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

Global mine production of nickel in 2018 was estimated at 2.3 million tonnes. Canada ranked fifth, with 7.7% of global mined production.

World mine production of nickel, by country, 2018 (p)
Ranking Country Thousand tonnes Percentage of total
1 Indonesia 606 26.0%
2 Philippines 345 14.8%
3 Russia 218 9.3%
4 New Caledonia 216 9.3%
5 Canada 180 7.7%
6 Australia 170 7.3%
7 China 99 4.2%
8 Brazil 74 3.2%
- Other countries 424 18.2%
Total   2,333 100.0%

World mine production of nickel, 2009–2018 (p)

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This bar graph shows the world's annual mined production of nickel from 2009 to 2018. Production was 1.4 million tonnes in 2009 and then increased steadily to a peak of 2.6 million tonnes in 2013. This was followed by a decrease to 2.0 million tonnes in 2016 and subsequent recovery or increase to 2.3 million tonnes in 2018.

Global refined production of nickel in 2018 was estimated at 2.2 million tonnes. Overall, Canada ranked fifth among the world producers of refined nickel. Seven countries accounted for more than 75% of the world's refined nickel production.

World refined production of nickel, by country, 2018 (p)
Ranking Country Thousand tonnes Percentage of total
1 China 691 31.4%
2 Indonesia 290 13.1%
3 Japan 187 8.5%
4 Russia 158 7.2%
5 Canada 133 6.0%
6 Australia 114 5.2%
7 New Caledonia 108 4.9%
8 Other countries 523 23.7%
Total   2204 100.0%

World refined production of nickel, 2009–2018 (p)

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This bar graph shows the world's refined production of nickel from 2009 to 2018. Production was 1.3 million tonnes in 2009 and then increased steadily over time to 2.2 million tonnes in 2018.

World reserves

In 2018, total world nickel reserves, as calculated by the U.S. Geological Survey, were estimated at 89 million tonnes.

World reserves of nickel, by country, 2018 (p)

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This bar graph shows the estimated world reserves of nickel by country in millions of tonnes in 2018. Indonesia had the largest tonnage (21.0 million tonnes), followed by Australia (19.0 million tonnes), Brazil (11.0 million tonnes), Russia (7.6 million tonnes), Cuba (5.5 million tonnes), the Philippines (4.8 million tonnes), South Africa (3.7 million tonnes), China (2.8 million tonnes), Canada (2.7 million tonnes) and other countries (10.5 million tonnes).

Trade

Canada's total trade in nickel and nickel-based products in 2018 was valued at $5.3 billion. Exports of nickel and nickel-based products were valued at $4.2 billion; imports were valued at $971 million.

Canada exported 115,000 tonnes of unwrought nickel valued at $2.1 billion in 2018. The United States imported 37% of these exports, while 19% was destined for China/Hong Kong, 10% went to Belgium, 8% went to the Netherlands and the remainder was shipped to 21 other countries.

Prices

Nickel prices per tonne fluctuated throughout 2018, peaking in June before finishing the year below January prices. January started at US$12,865/tonne, rising to US$15,106/tonne in June and ending at US$10,835/tonne in December.

Nickel, monthly average prices, 2009–2018

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This line graph shows the average price in US dollars per tonne of nickel from 2009 to 2018. The annual price of nickel averaged $14,732 per tonne in 2009. In 2018, the average annual price was $13,114 per tonne and the monthly prices of nickel were as follows: $12,865 (January); $13,596 (February); $13,393 (March); $13,938 (April); $14,366 (May); $15,106 (June); $13,794 (July); $13,411 (August); $12,510 (September); $12,315 (October); $11,240 (November); and $10,835 (December).

Notes and sources

(p) preliminary

Totals may be different because of rounding.

All dollars are Canadian unless otherwise indicated.

Uses

  • Nickel, global uses, 2019
    • Wood Mackenzie

Production

  • Canadian mine production of nickel, 2009–2018 (p)
    • Natural Resources Canada
  • Canadian mine production of nickel, by province, 2018 (p)
    • Natural Resources Canada
  • Canadian refined production of nickel, 2009–2018 (p)
    • International Nickel Study Group
  • Canadian refined production of nickel, by province, 2018 (p)
    • Vale, Glencore and Sherritt website – Annual Report

International context

  • World mine production of nickel, by country, 2018 (p)
    • International Nickel Study Group
  • World mine production of nickel, 2009–2018 (p)
    • International Nickel Study Group
  • World refined production of nickel, by country, 2018 (p)
    • International Nickel Study Group
  • World refined production of nickel, 2009–2018 (p)
    • International Nickel Study Group
  • World reserves of nickel, by country, 2018 (p)
    • U.S. Geological Survey

Prices

  • Nickel, monthly average prices, 2009–2018
    • Markets Insider