Global nickel mine production is expected to grow by 6.8% to reach 2,427.4 thousand tonnes (kt) in 2021, after registering an estimated 4.2% decline to 2,272kt in 2020, owing to the Covid-19 related lockdowns and restrictions. Output from Indonesia (+16.3%), the Philippines (+5.1%) and Brazil (+24%) will be significant contributors to the overall growth this year. In contrast, production is expected to decline in Russia (-13.8%) and South Africa (-15.8%).
Combined production from Indonesia, the Philippines and Brazil is expected to increase from a collective 1,160kt in 2020 to 1,316.8kt in 2021 – an increase of 13.5%. The increase in production will be supported by the expansion of Indonesia’s nickel industry, the resumption of production at various mines in the Philippines and the ramp-up at the Santa Rita mine in Brazil, which was previously halted in 2015.
Overall, Indonesia and the Philippines will remain as the largest sources of nickel globally. Together with Russia, New Caledonia and Australia, these five countries account for almost three-quarters of the global total. Looking ahead, nickel production over the forecast period is expected to grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 3%, to reach 2,730.6kt in 2025. Indonesia, Russia, Canada and the Philippines will be the key contributors to this growth. Combined production in these countries is expected to increase from a forecasted 1,607kt in 2021 to 1,818.4kt in 2025.
Projects with potential to commence operations during the forecast period include the Araguaia Nickel project in Brazil, which is wholly owned by Horizonte Minerals, and is currently awaiting a final investment decision (FID). The $402.1m project will have an annual nickel production capacity of 14.5kt and is expected to commence operations in 2022. During early 2021, the project’s infrastructure, including the award of construction licences for the transmission line and the water pipeline, was approved by the company. Tenders for the supply of key equipment and services have been completed for approximately $230m.
The Aquila Nickel project in Indonesia, which is wholly owned by Solway Investment Group, has obtained its regulatory approvals and permissions. The $57m project will have an annual nickel production capacity of 16.6kt and is expected to commence operations in 2023.