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Facts about nickel

Download our nickel fact sheets to learn more about this versatile metal. Find out about the properties of nickel, what it's used for, and how we think it will shape the future of demand for electric vehicles.

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What is nickel?

Nickel is a naturally-occurring metallic element with a silvery/white lustrous metal and a light golden tinge.

There are two main types of nickel deposits in the world, laterite and sulphide, requiring different techniques to extract the nickel.

 

Facts about nickel

Nickel sulphide and laterite ore is used to make nickel metal, predominantly for the production of stainless steel as well as nickel sulphate, a key ingredient in the batteries that drive electric vehicles. 

More than two thirds of global nickel production is used to produce stainless steel. It is the addition of nickel that enables stainless steel to become such a versatile alloy.

 

How is nickel used?

 

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Food and health

Home appliances, kitchen materials and medical instruments.

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Industry

Process plants, oil and gas, power generation and chemical production.

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Architecture

Structural applications and reinforcement in concrete.

 

Transport

Cars, trains and the aerospace industry.

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Electronics

Mobile phones, laptops and digital cameras.

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Energy Storage

Lithium-ion batteries and energy storage systems linked to renewable energy sources. 

 

 

Nickel and electric vehicles

Green battery with the nickel chamical symbol

Nickel makes a vital contribution to the lithium-ion batteries that power electric vehicles.

battery showing nickel proterties

A 60kwh NMC811 battery needs 9kg of cobalt, 11kg of lithium and 70kg of nickel.

Graph showing projected growth in nickel demand for electric vehicles

When the battery has more nickel, the vehicle can drive for longer.

 What is the future for nickel?

 

Icon showing the multiple uses of nickel The demand for high quality nickel sulphate will surge as the trend towards electric vehicles increases. 
 Icon showing the multiple uses of nickel BHP is investing $50 million in nickel exploration activities in Western Australia. 
 Icon showing the multiple uses of nickel BHP now sells more than 75% of its nickel production to the electric vehicle battery materials industry.
 Icon showing the multiple uses of nickel By 2050, nearly 50% of light vehicles around the world could be electric.

Why does BHP mine nickel?

Nickel is a vital part of the batteries that drive electric cars. More people around the world are choosing to drive electric cars and the world is going to need more of the essential elements that make up a nickel-rich lithium-ion battery.

How do we produce nickel?

Nickel West is a fully integrated mine-to-market nickel business in Western Australia. 

 

Nickel sulphide ore is mined at BHP’s open-cut and underground operations in the Northern Goldfields before it is crushed and concentrated at two large nickel concentrators using nickel sulphide flotation technology.

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The nickel concentrate is then dried and railed to the Kalgoorlie Nickel Smelter where it’s continuously fed to a flash furnace. The furnace process produces a granulated matte product containing approximately 68% nickel.

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It’s then railed to Kwinana Nickel Refinery where it is converted to nickel metal in the form of powder and briquettes, at 99.8% nickel grade.

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 Nickel matte and metal are exported to overseas markets via the Port of Fremantle.

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Nickel sulphate

 

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Our nickel sulphate is 99.98% pure. The purity of our product is critical for the nickel-rich batteries that drive electric cars. 

Where is nickel found?

Nickel sulphide deposits can be found all over the world including Western Australia, South Africa, Canada and Russia. Nickel laterite deposits can be found in countries such as Australia, Indonesia, New Caledonia and the Philippines.

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