Global nickel production increased in 2019 by 4pc to 2.4mn mt from a year earlier, according to the World Bureau of Metal Statistics (WBMS).
China’s nickel pig iron production mainly depends on nickel ore imports, and with Indonesia’s decision to introduce a nickel ore export ban in January, nickel ore exports to China significantly increased. As a result, China’s nickel production rose by 18pc to 850,000 mt in 2019 compared to 2018, contributing 35pc to global nickel production. Indonesia followed with a 28pc increase of nickel output in 2019 from a year earlier, reaching 350,000mt and comprising 15pc of global nickel production.
However, other countries like New Caledonia and Brazil saw nickel production decreases of 19pc and 17pc, respectively, in 2019.
Global nickel usage
Global nickel usage was on par with nickel production in 2019, rising by 4pc on an annual basis to 2.4mn mt. China accounted for 54pc of global nickel usage, while Indonesia comprised 7pc of global nickel usage—unchanged at 175,000mt from 2018.
On an annual basis in 2019, Japan’s nickel usage fell by 11pc and US nickel usage declined by 22pc. India and Italy saw nickel usage declines of 19pc and 22pc, respectively, in 2019 from a year earlier.
Global nickel exports
Total global nickel exports in 2019 rose by 6pc to 1.5mn mt from 2018.
With a ban on nickel ore exports this past January, many countries imported nickel from Indonesia, making the country the largest nickel ore exporter in 2019. Indonesia saw an 85pc increase in nickel ore exports to 400,000mt in 2019 compared to 2018, comprising a quarter of global nickel exports. Russia’s nickel ore exports were flat in 2019 at 140,000mt, accounting for 9pc of worldwide nickel exports.
Other countries, like Canada, Australia, Netherlands, and Norway, saw increases in nickel exports last year.
Global nickel imports
China had the largest spike of nickel imports in 2019, increasing by 50pc to 700,000mt. (However, this does not match nickel export data, and WBMS will conduct further analysis.)
LME nickel stocks in Malaysia fell from 180,000mt to 40,000mt from the end of 2017 to the end of 2019. The US also recorded a 20pc decline in its imports in 2019, falling to 110,000mt. Nickel imports in South Korea increased by 20pc to 77,000mt in 2019 from a year earlier.