Nickel and its compounds are essential for manufacturing steel, but nickel has also been dubbed ‘the silent saviour’ as it plays a role in the global transition to clean energy as one of the key metals used in batteries for electric vehicles.
Total nickel reserves are estimated at 94 million tonnes globally, according to the US Geological Survey, with Indonesia and Australia among the countries holding the largest endowments.
Global nickel production totalled some 2.2 million tonnes in 2020 despite a global pandemic. This year, global mine production is expected to grow —GlobalData estimates a 6.8% increase to nearly 2.5 million tonnes.
Using data provided by sister company Miningintelligence, MINING.COM has compiled a list of the world’s biggest nickel companies based on their production in 2020.
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Russia’s Norilsk Nickel (Nornickel) takes the top spot with over 178 kilotonnes (kt) produced, up from 172kts in 2019. Nornickel’s Kola division, which includes five operating mines, is under scrutiny for its environmental footprint, and the company has pledged to invest about $5 billion over the next decade to clean up lines on the Kola Peninsula.
Brazil’s Vale comes in second place, with 167kt, down from 171kt produced the year prior. PT Vale Indonesia said it aims to start construction at its Pomalaa nickel project next year.
Mining giants in third, fourth and fifth places respectively are Glencore, with assets in Australia, Canada and Europe producing a combined 101kt, down from 108kt in 2019, followed by BHP with 74.8kt from its Nickel West operations in Australia, and Anglo American at 43.6kt from its operations in Brazil.
Australian diversified miner South32’s Colombian nickel operations produced 36.1kts, down 11% from the prior year, nearly neck and neck with Paris-based Eramet Group, which produced 35.9kts.
Perth-based IGO produced 29.5kts, with Finland’s Terrafame following closely with 28.7kts. China’s MCC-JJJ Mining, with production based on its 85% ownership of the Ramu mine in Papua New Guinea, rounds out the top ten, trailing only a point behind Terrafame, with 28.6kts of nickel produced in 2020.