Global consumption of primary nickel has reached 1.6 million tonnes per annum in recent years. The trend rate of increase has been about 2.6% in recent decades. This represents additional consumption of approximately 48,000 tonnes per year. Asian countries, led by China, accounted for much the growth in demand, as their economies evolved rapidly from being predominantly agricultural to becoming highly industrialized.
By 2011, China accounted for 43% of world consumption of nickel, compared with just 4% twelve years before. The four largest consumers of primary nickel in 2011 were China (684,800 tonnes), Japan (152,200 tonnes), USA (132,400 tonnes), and Germany (95,500 tonnes).
Production of refined nickel has reached 1.6 million tonnes per annum in 2011. The world’s four largest producers of primary nickel metal in 2011 were China (411,200 tonnes), Russia (265,700 tonnes), Japan (157,300 tonnes), and Canada (142,400 tonnes).
The price of nickel is established daily on the London Metal Exchange. Over the past decade, the nickel price averaged about US$20,000 per tonne, but recent financial crises have lead to large fluctuations of the price.
The demand for nickel is expected to continue well into the long-term. Expansions of stainless steel production capacity and the emergence of the newly industrialized Asian economies as consumers will remain key drivers behind sustained nickel demand for the long-term future.