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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

  • Canada's exports of nickel and nickel-based products in 2019 were valued at $4.1 billion.
  • In 2019, Canada ranked fifth in the world for mine production of 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 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, 2019

Text version

This donut chart shows the major industrial uses of nickel as of 2019. The largest use was for stainless steel (71%), followed by alloy production (14%), electroplating (7%), batteries (7%), other miscellaneous products (3%), and metallurgical castings (3%).

Production

In 2019, Canada produced an estimated 181,410 tonnes of nickel in concentrate from mines located in Newfoundland and Labrador, Quebec, Ontario and Manitoba. Canada also produced 124,708 tonnes of refined nickel at three refineries located in Fort Saskatchewan, Alberta; Sudbury, Ontario; and Long Harbour, Newfoundland and Labrador.

Canadian mine production of nickel, 2010–2019 (p)

Text version

This bar graph shows Canada's annual mine production of nickel from 2010 to 2019. Canada mined 157,170 tonnes of nickel in 2010. 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 181,410 tonnes in 2019.

Canadian mine production of nickel, by province, 2019 (p)
Ranking Province Thousand tonnes Percentage of total
1 Ontario 74.0 40.8%
2 Quebec 54.4 30.0%
3 Newfoundland and Labrador 40.2 22.2%
4 Manitoba 12.8 7.1%
Total   181.4 100.0%

Canadian refined production of nickel, 2010–2019 (p)

Text version

This bar graph shows Canada's refined production of nickel from 2010 to 2019. Canada refined 105,413 tonnes of nickel in 2010. Refined production increased to 142,445 in 2011 and again to a peak of 158,299 tonnes in 2016 before steadily decreasing to 124,838 tonnes in 2019.

International context

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

Global mine production of nickel in 2019 was estimated at 2.7 million tonnes by the U.S. Geological Survey. Indonesia was the largest producer at 800,000 tonnes or 29.8% of global mined production. Canada ranked fifth, with 6.8% of the global total.

World mine production of nickel, by country, 2019 (p)
Ranking Country Thousand tonnes Percentage of total
1 Indonesia 800 29.8%
2 Philippines 420 15.7%
3 Russia 270 10.1%
4 New Caledonia 220 8.2%
5 Canada 181 6.8%
6 Australia 180 6.7%
7 China 110 4.1%
8 Brazil 67 2.5%
9 Cuba 51 1.9%
- Other countries 384 14.3%
Total   2,683 100.0%

World mine production of nickel, 2010–2019 (p)

Text version

This bar graph shows the world's annual mined production of nickel from 2010 to 2019. Production was 1.6 million tonnes in 2010 before increasing steadily to a peak of 2.6 million tonnes in 2013. This was followed by a decrease to 2.1 million tonnes by 2016 and subsequent recovery to 2.7 million tonnes in 2019.

World reserves

In 2019, total world nickel reserves were estimated at 89 million tonnes, as calculated by the U.S. Geological Survey.

World reserves of nickel, by country, 2019 (p)

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This bar graph shows the estimated world reserves of nickel by country in millions of tonnes in 2019. Indonesia had the largest tonnage (21.0 million tonnes), followed by Australia (20.0 million tonnes), Brazil (11.0 million tonnes), Russia (6.9 million tonnes), Cuba (5.5 million tonnes), the Philippines (4.8 million tonnes), China (2.8 million tonnes), Canada (2.6 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 2019 was valued at $4.9 billion. Exports of nickel and nickel-based products were valued at $4.1 billion. Imports were valued at $594.0 million.

Canada exported 110,342 tonnes of unwrought nickel valued at $2.0 billion in 2019. The United States imported 46% of these exports, while 13% was destined for China/Hong Kong. A further 9% went to the Netherlands, 7% went to Belgium and the remainder was shipped to 23 other countries.

Prices

Monthly nickel prices in US$ per tonne averaged US$21,809 per tonne in 2010 and achieved a peak of US$22,910 per tonne 2011. Prices then steadily declined towards a low of US$9,595 per tonne in 2016 before increasing to US$13,914 per tonne in 2019.

Nickel, monthly average nominal US$ per tonne prices, 2010–2019

Text version

This line graph shows the nominal monthly average price in US dollars per tonne of nickel from 2010 to 2019. The price of nickel averaged US$21,809 per tonne in 2010, climbed to US$ 22,910 per tonne in 2011 and then declined steadily to US$9,595 in 2016. The average price then increased to US$ 13,914 per tonne in 2019. The lowest monthly price in 2019 was US$11,523 in January while the highest was US$17,657 in September. The monthly price ended 2019 at US$13,829 in December of that year.

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, 2010–2019 (p)
    • Natural Resources Canada
  • Canadian mine production of nickel, by province, 2019 (p)
    • Natural Resources Canada
  • Canadian refined production of nickel, 2010–2019 (p)
    • Natural Resources Canada

International context

  • World mine production of nickel, by country, 2019 (p)
    • U.S. Geological Survey
  • World mine production of nickel, 2009–2019 (p)
    • U.S. Geological Survey
  • World reserves of nickel, by country, 2019 (p)
    • U.S. Geological Survey

Prices

  • Nickel price, monthly average nominal US$ per tonne, 2010–2019
    • World Bank
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