Global nickel production is expected to decline by 7.4% to 2.19-million tonnes in 2020, data and analytics company GlobalData says, citing the temporary suspension of mines caused by the Covid-19 pandemic and the advancement of Indonesia’s export ban.
Indonesia’s mine production is expected to fall to 680 000 t in 2020 – down by 15%, compared with 800 000 t in 2019, owing to the advancement of the exports ban from 2022 to 2020.
“Indonesian nickel mining companies without integrated nickel pig iron operations have been facing difficulties in selling output to domestic smelters at low prices alongside inadequate capacity. Therefore, domestic miners have been either halting or curbing their output in the first three quarters of the year and this is expected to continue over the rest of 2020,” says GlobalData senior mining analyst Vinneth Bajaj.
Mine production in the Philippines is forecast to fall by 9.3%, down to 293 400 t in 2020, as companies struggle to keep operating while combating the dual challenges of Covid-19 and weather disruptions. On April 1, Nickel Asia and Global Ferronickel suspended operations in the Surigao del Norte province, where most of the country’s mines are located, due to the Covid-19 pandemic. By mid-May, operations were resumed albeit with strict safety protocols.
“In contrast, despite the challenges caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, production in New Caledonia and Brazil is expected to collectively increase by 6.9% in 2020. The increase in production will be supported by the resumption of commercial production at the Santa Rita mine in Brazil, which was previously halted in 2015 due to low nickel prices. This will be supported by higher production from Vale’s Goro nickel project in New Caledonia.”
Looking ahead, global nickel mine production over the forecast period (2021 to 2024) is expected to recover at a compound annual growth rate of 4.2%, to reach 2.64-million tons in 2024. Indonesia, Australia, the Philippines and Canada will be the key contributors to this growth. Combined production in these countries is expected to increase from an estimated 1.42-million tons in 2021 to 1.64-million tons in 2024.
Projects which are most likely to commence operations during the forecast period include Indonesia’s East Halmahera (2021) and Aquila Nickel (2023) projects and the Kingash project in Russia (2024).