GSA Connects 2021 in Portland, Oregon

Paper No. 68-2
Presentation Time: 8:25 AM


JOWITT, Simon, Department of Geoscience, University of Nevada Las Vegas, 4505 S. Maryland Parkway, Las Vegas, NV 89154-4010 and MUDD, Gavin M., Environmental Engineering, RMIT University, Melbourne, VIC 3000, Australia

Nickel is fundamentally important to modern life and society and is crucial for the production of stainless steel, specialty alloys, electroplating, battery production, and other uses. Global nickel demand is expected to soar as the world transitions to a low- to zero-CO2 and carbon neutral energy and transport future that necessarily involves the greater use of batteries for energy storage associated with renewable energy systems. This means that understanding the current nickel market and known nickel resources and reserves (i.e., current and likely future sources of this metal) are key to enabling the energy transition, including the likely environmental, social, and governmental (ESG) challenges that may prevent nickel project development or may hinder the continuation of current operations. This presentation provides a comprehensive global overview of reported Ni resources and reserves for 2018 classified by mineral deposit type to understand the relative importance of the different mineral systems that are mined for nickel. The majority of nickel has been and will continue to be sourced from nickel laterites and magmatic sulfide systems; other deposits have been mined for nickel although production from these remains relatively small. Our database includes 653 nickel deposits with in-ground resources and reserves, including 235 Ni laterite, 364 magmatic sulfide and 54 miscellaneous (e.g., hydrothermal, Ni alloy, seafloor Mn nodule, etc.) Ni-containing resources. These data yield 346.0 Mt of contained Ni in resources that, if all converted into resources and hence production, could meet ~153 years of Ni demand at 2018 global production rates (~2.25 Mt Ni). Global Ni reserves contain some 47.12 Mt of Ni split into 25.97, 20.14, and 1.01 Mt Ni in laterite, sulfide and miscellaneous reserves, respectively. Comparison of these data to 2011 data indicate that magmatic sulfide deposits are keeping pace with depletion by mining whereas laterite resources and reserves are lower than in 2011, suggesting the latter can be more comprehensively assessed during the early stages of laterite resource and reserve estimation. Overall, known nickel resources and reserves are sufficient to continue current levels of production for several decades (assuming all of this material can be mined). However, the nickel mining sector faces a number of challenges that may change this, including increased demand from electric vehicles and batteries and potential supply restrictions relating to increased ESG challenges to the mining industry globally.