Abstract

Nickel is a metal that reflects the technological advances of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, emerging as critically important for stainless steel and a variety of specialty metal alloys as well as currency, chemicals, and batteries. Although mineral resources are commonly considered to be limited or finite, global Ni production has grown steadily throughout the twentieth century and has been matched by substantial growth in estimated Ni reserves and resources. While there is growing concern about “peak oil,” there is very little research about “peak minerals.” In this paper, we present a detailed compilation and assessment of globally reported Ni resources by project and split into standard mineral deposit types for the year 2011. The minimum amount of Ni reported globally as mineral resources is 296.2 million metric tons (Mt) Ni, split over a total of 253 sulfide projects containing 118.0 Mt Ni and 224 laterite projects containing 178.1 Mt Ni, with a further 3.38 Mt Ni in China (excluding Jinchuan, which is included in our sulfide compilation)—i.e., a global total of some 299.6 Mt Ni. Our data compilation indicates that the majority of global Ni resources are hosted by laterite deposits (59.5%), especially Ni laterite deposits located around the tropics. In addition, our compiled data indicate that global Ni resources continue to increase, despite a coincident increase in Ni production over time, along with declining cut-off and ore grades, increasing awareness of environmental issues and other related aspects. Overall, there are abundant Ni resources already identified which can meet growing global demands for some decades to come—the primary factors which govern whether a given project is developed (or not) will be social, economic, and environmental in nature.

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