Did you know that Canada stands as a global leader in nickel production, a vital element in numerous daily-use products?! From anti-corrosion alloys and stainless-steel appliances to jet engines and electric vehicles, nickel significantly shapes the contemporary lifestyle enjoyed by many Canadians.

As global demand for high-grade nickel is projected to surge in the coming years, Canada has a crucial role in meeting this demand. According to an analysis by Rystad Energy, the world is anticipated to face a shortage in high-grade nickel supply by 2024, primarily due to its essential role in EV batteries and other technologies crucial for the energy transition.

In 2020, Canada ranked as the world’s sixth-largest producer and the seventh-largest reserve holder of nickel, presenting a tremendous opportunity for further development and increased production. Leveraging its esteemed Towards Sustainable Mining initiative, recognized and adopted globally for its ESG-focused framework, Canada is poised to be an exemplary supplier meeting the world’s growing nickel needs.

To provide a comprehensive insight into nickel mining in Canada, we’ve compiled various facts encompassing its uses, historical significance, and other pertinent information related to this increasingly valuable metal.

10 Canadian Nickel Mining Facts

  1. Production Leadership: Canada produced over 167,000 tonnes of nickel in 2020, ranking as the sixth-largest global producer and contributing 6.7% to worldwide production (NRC).
  2. Abundant Reserves: With discovered reserves exceeding 2 million tonnes, Canada boasts the seventh-largest nickel deposits globally in 2020 (NRC).
  3. Refined Nickel Production: Canada refined more than 124,000 tonnes of nickel across three refineries situated in Fort Saskatchewan, Alberta, Sudbury, Ontario, and Long Harbour, Newfoundland & Labrador (NRC).
  4. Export Contribution: Canadian nickel and nickel-based product exports amounted to $3.9 billion in 2020 (NRC).
  5. Key Export Destinations: Canada exported over 107,000 tonnes of unwrought nickel, valued at $2 billion in 2020, with the top five destinations being:
  • United States (50%)
  • China (14%)
  • Netherlands (12%)
  • Belgium (5%)
  • Japan (4%)
  1. Historical Discovery: Nickel was initially discovered in Canada in 1883, with direct mining commencing in the 1890s (Investing News).
  2. Versatile Alloy Usage: Nickel is utilized in manufacturing more than 3,000 different alloys (University of Waterloo).
  3. Global Supply Leadership: Canada became the world’s leading nickel supplier in the early 1900s through the establishment of major companies like International Nickel (1902) and Falconbridge Nickel Mines (1928) (University of Waterloo).
  4. Replacement of Caledonia: In 1905, Canada replaced Caledonia, a small Pacific island, as the world’s primary source of nickel (University of Waterloo).
  5. Electric Vehicle Contribution: Nickel is a crucial component of lithium-ion batteries for electric and hybrid vehicles (NRC).

Where to Find Nickel in Canada?

In the rich mining landscape of Canada, mixed nickel and copper sulphide deposits thrive near Sudbury, Ontario, echoing their presence in Manitoba’s Birchtree and Bucko Lake Mines, as well as the Voisey’s Bay area of Labrador. Notably, British Columbia is witnessing ongoing nickel exploration projects, adding to the country’s diverse mineral wealth.

Canada’s foremost nickel mining provinces, namely Ontario, Quebec, Newfoundland and Labrador, and Manitoba, collectively dominated the nation’s nickel mining capacity in 2020. The distribution of domestic production among these provinces is as follows:

  • Ontario – 38.8%
  • Quebec – 33%
  • Newfoundland & Labrador – 19.7%
  • Manitoba – 8.5%

This geographical concentration underscores the significant role these provinces play in Canada’s nickel production. Furthermore, according to the University of Waterloo, the United States emerges as Canada’s primary customer for nickel. Approximately one-third of the nickel mined in Canada undergoes refining in Europe before being distributed to parts of the EU and the U.S.

Canada’s Preeminent Nickel Mining Sites

Exploring the geography of Canada’s most prominent nickel mines offers insight into the widespread distribution of this valuable metal across the nation. The top five nickel mines in Canada, based on production in 2020, are as follows:

  1. Raglan, Quebec: Nestled in Quebec, the Raglan Mine operates underground, contributing over 39,230 tonnes of nickel in 2020. Projections indicate its continuous operation until at least 2027.
  2. Voisey’s Bay, Newfoundland & Labrador: Situated in Labrador, the Voisey’s Bay Mine, with both surface and underground operations, produced an estimated 35,700 tonnes of nickel in 2020. Its operational lifespan is anticipated to extend until 2034.
  3. Sudbury, Ontario: The Sudbury Mine, located in Ontario, yielded approximately 17,670 tonnes of nickel in 2020 and is anticipated to remain operational until 2035.
  4. Coleman, Ontario: Positioned about 45 kilometers northwest of Sudbury, Ontario, the Coleman Mine, operating underground, contributed more than 14,130 tonnes of nickel in 2020. It is slated for continued operation until 2030.
  5. Nunavik, Quebec: In Quebec, the Nunavik Nickel Project, combining surface and underground operations, produced an estimated 11,156 tonnes of nickel in 2020. Its operational timeline is expected to extend until 2028.

Source: Mining Technology

What is Nickel Used For?

Nickel, a lustrous metallic element, is predominantly employed in the production of stainless steel and alloys known for their resilience in harsh conditions and extreme temperatures.

Currently, over 70 percent of worldwide nickel production is dedicated to the manufacturing of stainless steel. However, the demand for this versatile metal is on the rise, driven by its essential role in the composition of batteries for electric vehicles.

Various applications for nickel encompass (but are not confined to):

  • Alnico magnets
  • Armour plating for military vehicles
  • Bathroom fixtures
  • Cast iron and steel
  • Coins
  • Cutlery
  • Electroplating
  • Glass – produces a green color
  • Jewellery
  • Laptops
  • Medical equipment
  • Measuring devices
  • Mobile phones
  • Power generation
  • Power tools
  • Sheet metal
  • Stainless steel
  • Turbine blades
  • Watch hair springs
  • Weighing machines

History of Nickel in Canada

The narrative of nickel mining in Canada is intertwined with the nation’s rich history, dating back almost as far as the country itself. A concise chronological overview of the evolution of nickel in Canada spans several pivotal decades:

  • 1883 – Nickel is initially unearthed in Canada, marking its discovery near Sudbury, Ontario.
  • 1890s – The onset of nickel mining takes root in Ontario, where its presence was first identified.
  • 1900s – Sudbury earns the moniker of the nickel capital of the world, propelled by the establishment of major entities like International Nickel in 1902 and Falconbridge Nickel Mines in 1928.
  • 1905 – Canada supplants Caledonia, a small Pacific island, emerging as the foremost global source of nickel.
  • 1918 – The initiation of nickel refining in Canada occurs with Inco’s refinery construction at Port Colborne, Ontario, utilizing hydroelectric power from Niagara Falls.
  • 1956 – Manitoba’s Thompson Mine reveals commercially viable nickel deposits, prompting Inco’s monumental private capital investment of $175 million for a contemporary mine and community infrastructure.
  • 1997 – Inco’s exploration endeavors lead to the discovery of nickel deposits in Newfoundland and Labrador’s Voisey’s Bay region.

Today, Canada sustains its standing as a prominent global nickel producer, solidifying its reputation as a reliable source for this versatile metal over several transformative decades.

Sustainable Nickel Mining in Canada

Canada upholds an exemplary standard in the extraction and development of nickel deposits, operating within one of the world’s most rigorous, transparent, and environmentally conscious regulatory frameworks.

Renowned as a global leader in Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) metrics, Canada’s mining sector adheres to top-tier sustainability and safety practices, guided by the Mining Association of Canada’s (MAC) innovative Towards Sustainable Mining (TSM) initiative.

Established in 2004, TSM aims to empower mining operators to fulfill global demand for minerals, metals, and energy products in a socially, environmentally, and economically responsible manner.

Presently, Canadian miners both domestically and internationally embrace TSM, leaving a profound impact on the global stage. Notably, this initiative has garnered international recognition, with nations such as Finland, Argentina, and Spain adopting its principles.

For deeper insights into Canada’s remarkable achievements in sustainable mining, explore:

Canada Setting the Global Standard for Sustainable Mining.

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