Paper No. 30-2
Presentation Time: 1:55 PM
A NEW CENTURY FOR NICKEL? ASSESSING RESOURCES, RESERVES AND SUSTAINABILITY OF THE DEVIL'S METAL
Nickel is crucial to modern society for the production of stainless steel, specialty alloys, electroplating, battery production, and other uses. Global nickel demand is expected to rise rapidly as a result of the global transition to a low- to zero-CO2 and carbon neutral energy and transport future that involves the greater use of batteries for energy storage associated with renewable energy systems. This increased demand beyong already record production means that understanding the current nickel market and known nickel resources and reserves (i.e., current and 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. These data yield 346.0 Mt of contained Ni in resources that 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 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 sector faces a number of challenges that may change this, including increased demand from electric vehicles and batteries and supply restrictions relating to increased ESG challenges to the global mining industry.