Nickel, with the symbol Ni, has an atomic number of 28 in the periodic table and a relative atomic mass of 58.69. It is a group VIII metal. Density 8.9 g/cm³, melting point 1455 °C, boiling point 2730 °C. Nickel is a silvery-white metal that is easily oxidised by air, forming a somewhat opaque oxide film on the surface, so that the nickel seen is often opaque in colour. Nickel is hard, ductile, magnetic and resistant to corrosion and is highly polished. Nickel is also very abundant in the earth’s crust. It occurs in nature as nickel silicate ore or as sulphur, arsenic and nickel compounds. Nickel is often used in the manufacture of stainless steel, Alloy structural steel and other steel fields, electroplating, high nickel-based alloys and batteries, and is widely used in various military manufacturing industries such as aircraft and radar, civil machinery manufacturing and the electroplating industry.
The History And Development Of Nickel
Nickel has played an important role in the development of human material civilisation. Due to the close melting point of nickel and iron, nickel was mistakenly considered by the ancients to be very good iron. In ancient times, Chinese, Egyptians and Babylonians used meteoric iron, which is very high in nickel, to make their wares and was also seen as silver by the indigenous people of Peru because nickel does not rust.
Nickel Industry History
The nickel mineral was used to make coins in China as early as 235 BC, and white copper, or copper-nickel, was invented and used by our ancient people in 200 BC. In 1751, Alex Fredrik Cronstedt of Stockholm studied a new metal – called red arsenical nickel ore (NiAs). He thought it contained copper, but what he extracted was a new metal which was announced and named nickel (nickel) in 1754.
During the extraction process the metal cobalt, arsenic and copper all appeared as trace contaminants and were misidentified by many chemists until pure nickel was produced by Torbern Bergman in 1775, which confirmed it as an element. nickel was reported to be present in animals in 1952 and was later proposed to be an essential trace element for mammals. nickel was developed after 1975. Studies on the nutrition and metabolism of nickel were carried out after 1975.
Nickel industry development
In recent years, world nickel production and consumption is relatively stable, the world nickel market supply and demand situation is mainly with the development of stainless steel industry changes, with the growth of nickel in stainless steel machining industry consumption in the application of ferronickel smelting process technology has made great progress, high-grade ferronickel production has been greatly enhanced. The major nickel mining resource countries are mainly Russia, Canada, New Caledonia, Indonesia, Australia and Cuba, and the combined mineral nickel production and exports account for about 80% of the world total.
Nickel smelting is concentrated in Russia, Japan, Canada, Australia, Norway, China, New Caledonia, the UK, South Africa and Finland.
The major nickel consuming countries, which are also the main producers of stainless steel, are Japan, the USA, Germany, Russia, Italy, France and South Korea. Among the major nickel consuming countries, only Russia is a nickel resource country, the rest of the consuming countries have almost no nickel ore available for mining and rely mainly on imported nickel concentrates and other primary processed nickel products. With the continuous depletion of nickel resources and decreasing resource reserves, the search for and rational exploitation of new nickel ores and the increased development of nickel resource recycling industry has become an important task in the development of the current nickel industry.
China is currently the world’s largest producer and consumer of ferronickel, with the continuous development of the economy and steel industry, the demand for nickel resources is increasing, but at the same time, the production of nickel ore is also increasing, gradually resulting in the current severe pattern of global nickel market oversupply. In china stainless steel production, ferronickel as a raw material for production, the proportion of its use will rise year by year, the use of pure nickel is on a downward trend. And in China’s nickel industry continues to develop at the same time, the problem also comes, such as nickel ore is mostly low-grade, the proportion of open pit is very small, the recoverable reserves are even smaller, mining and smelting technology is relatively backward, and the world’s advanced technology is still a big gap, mining and smelting costs remain high, it can be seen that China’s nickel industry still has a lot of room for development.
Recent Nickel Market Situation
In 2014, despite the poor economic situation in some developed countries, global nickel prices rose by 12 percentage points. in May 2014, the cash settlement price of nickel climbed to US$19,434 per tonne, but the price fell again in the fourth quarter due to production cuts by steel producers in the Eurozone, related economic problems and inflationary pressures, and fell to US$15,765 per tonne in October. At the same time, LSE inventories gradually climbed to new highs, exceeding 385,000 tonnes by the end of October. Despite the low price of nickel metal and the oversupply in the market, new nickel plants continue to emerge as producers believe that the global economy will recover. Meanwhile, global austenitic stainless steel production rose to a new high in 2013, with China accounting for more than half of the production. In January 2014, the Indonesian government issued a ban on nickel ore exports in the hope of boosting its domestic production of ferronickel and nickel-containing pig iron. in May, Russia’s Norilsk Nickel, the world’s largest nickel company, said it would sell its assets in Australia, Botswana and South Africa to focus on its core business in Russia. .
Alternatives to nickel
In the building materials industry, austenitic stainless steels are replacing the original low nickel, dual chromium or ultra-high chromium stainless steels. Some nickel-free special steels are also sometimes replacing nickel-containing stainless steels in the power and petrochemical industries. Titanium alloys can replace metallic nickel or nickel alloys for applications in corrosive chemical environments. Lithium batteries, on the other hand, are replacing nickel batteries in some equipment.
The Physical And Chemical Properties Of Nickel
Physical Properties Of Nickel
Nickel is a silvery-white metal with good mechanical strength and ductility. Insoluble in water, it is highly resistant to acids and alkalis, but readily soluble in dilute nitric acid and aqua regia. It is resistant to high temperatures, with a melting point of 1455 °C and a boiling point of 2730 °C. The density is 8.902 g/cm³.
Chemical Properties Of Nickel
At room temperature, nickel forms a dense oxide film on the surface in moist air, which turns dark and prevents the continued oxidation of the native metal. Organic acids, hydrochloric acid, sulphuric acid and alkaline solutions leach nickel extremely slowly. Nickel will dissolve slowly in dilute nitric acid. Fuming nitric acid passivates the surface of nickel and makes it corrosion resistant. Nickel, like platinum and palladium, absorbs large amounts of hydrogen when passivated, and the smaller the particle size, the greater the absorption. The important salts of nickel are nickel sulphate and nickel chloride. Similar to iron and cobalt, it is stable to water and air at room temperature and is resistant to alkaline corrosion, so nickel crucibles can be used in the laboratory to melt alkaline substances. Nickel is soluble in dilute acids. Unlike iron, cobalt and nickel react violently with concentrated nitric acid and more slowly with dilute nitric acid.
Smelting Of Nickel
Nickel ore is mainly divided into copper-nickel sulphide ore and nickel oxide ore, the two beneficiation and smelting process is completely different: according to the copper-nickel sulphide ore level choose different beneficiation methods, and then smelting; nickel oxide ore smelting enrichment methods, can be divided into two categories of fire and wet method. Specific beneficiation processing content will be described in detail below.
Copper-nickel sulphide ore beneficiation methods, the most important is flotation, while magnetic separation and re-election are usually auxiliary beneficiation methods. When flotation of copper-nickel sulphide ores, the trapping and foaming agent for flotation of copper sulphide minerals is often used. A basic principle in determining the flotation process is that it is preferable to have copper in the nickel concentrate and to avoid nickel in the copper concentrate as far as possible. This is because the nickel in the copper concentrate is lost in the smelting process, while the copper in the nickel concentrate can be recovered more completely. Copper-nickel ore flotation has the following four basic processes.
- Direct priority flotation or partial priority flotation process: When the ore contains much higher copper than nickel, this process can be used to separate the copper into separate concentrates. The advantage of this process is that a copper concentrate with a lower nickel content can be obtained directly.
- Mixed flotation process: used to sort ores containing less copper than nickel, the resulting mixed copper-nickel concentrate is directly smelted into high ice nickel.
- Mixed-optimal flotation process: mixed flotation of copper and nickel from the ore, and then separating the copper concentrate containing low nickel and the nickel concentrate containing copper from the mixed concentrate. This nickel concentrate is smelted to obtain high ice nickel, which is then separated by flotation.
- Mixed-priority flotation and further recovery of some nickel from the mixed flotation tailings: When the floatability of various nickel minerals in the ore varies greatly, the copper-nickel mixed flotation is followed by further recovery of the poorly floatable nickel-containing minerals from its tailings.
Nickel sulphide ore smelting
Process selection is based on the type of raw material, composition and requirements for the product. Most of the sulphide ores are smelted by matte making, i.e. various nickel sulphide ores are refined into low nickel matte using different pyrometallurgical processes, and then the low nickel matte is blown into high nickel matte, an Alloy of nickel sulphide and copper sulphide, using a converter. The high nickel matte is then refined by different refining methods in nickel refineries to produce different nickel products.
Nickel sulphide ores can also be wet smelted, but only a few plants use this method.
Nickel Oxide Ore
Nickel oxide ores are mostly crushed and screened to remove large blocks of bedrock that are weakly weathered and have low nickel content. As the nickel in nickel oxide ore is often dispersed in the vein minerals in a homogeneous manner and is very fine in size, it cannot be enriched by mechanical beneficiation methods and can only be smelted directly.
Introduction to Nickel Oxide Smelting
The smelting enrichment methods for nickel oxide ores can be divided into two categories: fire and wet. The former can be divided into sulphur smelting, nickel-iron method and grain iron method; the latter has a reduction roasting – atmospheric pressure ammonia leaching method, high-pressure acid leaching method, etc.
Nickel oxide ore does not play an important role in China, only Mojiang Gold Factory and Yuanjiang An Ding area in Yunnan have certain reserves. The mine has been designed to be better by sulphur making smelting (reduction roasting) than by ammonia leaching. But in general, the mine ore grade is low, high magnesium (MgO 15% ~ 30%) difficult to melt, fuel consumption, transport difficulties, the current difficult to put on the construction schedule.
Due to the small amount of nickel sulphide ore resources on earth, the extraction of nickel metal from nickel oxide ore (laterite nickel ore) has gradually become the mainstream of nickel metal extraction in the world. The main extraction processes for lateritic nickel ores are There are two main extraction processes: wet smelting and pyrometallurgical smelting.
The smelting process of wet smelting can be further divided into ammonia leaching process, high pressure acid leaching process, reduction roasting – acid leaching process and sulphated roasting – water leaching process. Of these, the ammonia leaching process is only suitable for treating surface laterite ores and not nickel oxide ores with high copper and cobalt content. The high pressure acid leaching process is suitable for treating nickel laterite ores of the low magnesium (aluminium) and high iron type – limonite type (70% of all laterite ores are of the limonite type).
The advantages of wet smelting: low energy consumption, less pollution, good quality, the process has a long history of development, originating in the 1970s, whether atmospheric pressure or pressurised acid leaching, the current technology is relatively mature, there are a number of mature production lines at home and abroad, with the increase in environmental protection in recent years and some of the original nickel exporting countries export restrictions, China has gradually reduced the direct smelting of nickel laterite ore, and turned to smelting after the initial processing of nickel intermediate This has promoted the import of intermediate nickel wet smelting products. The advantages of the development of wet smelting have become more apparent. Its shortcomings are the large investment in the process, the long lead time, the complexity of the process, the higher costs and the higher selling prices, and the weak market competitiveness, but this state of affairs is difficult to change at any time.
The smelting process of pyrometallurgy can be divided into two kinds of reduction smelting nickel and iron process and reduction sulphurization smelting nickel matte process. Pyrometallurgy is suitable for processing silicon-magnesium-nickel type ores (i.e. ores with relatively high silicon and magnesium content in the lower part of the deposit, low iron content and low cobalt content). One of the most used is the reduction smelting process for ferronickel.
According to the reduction smelting equipment can be divided into electric furnace smelting and blast furnace smelting, the larger production scale of most of the plants using electric furnace smelting, small plants are using blast furnace smelting. Electric furnace smelting is suitable for processing all types of nickel oxide ore, according to the supply of raw materials, ore storage, etc., the production scale can be large or small, there is no strict requirement for the size of the furnace charge, powder and larger lumps can be directly processed, but the disadvantage is that the energy consumption is too large. Blast furnace smelting production of ferronickel is a small investment, low energy consumption, suitable for small-scale, power supply difficulties and low nickel content of laterite ore to go, its disadvantage is the poor adaptability of the ore, the magnesium content of the more stringent requirements, in addition can not deal with powder ore, the furnace charge also has strict requirements.
Overall, the pyrotechnic process pyrotechnic process has high energy consumption, poor comprehensive metal recovery effect, cost is comparable to the cost of wet smelting, and belongs to the traditional treatment method.
Through the analysis of the advantages and shortcomings of wet smelting and fire smelting can be seen, due to the wet process less energy consumption, less pollution, excellent quality, the two processes are currently comparable in cost, the superiority of the wet process and the development trend gradually highlighted, then the wet smelting naturally more attention, the investment in its technology must be greater than the fire smelting, with the wet smelting technology, equipment progress and the expansion of the scale, gradually the cost of the wet process will gradually lower than the pyrotechnic process. Both methods have technical and economic advantages, so in the next few years, the proportion of new nickel laterite projects will be greater in wet smelting than in pyro smelting, and the development prospects for wet smelting are more optimistic.
Even though wet smelting has many advantages, but at present, its smelting technology also has many problems, such as one-time equipment investment, only suitable for processing low magnesium content of brown iron type ore, and the ore grade requirements, the same liquid waste, pollution of the environment, etc.. These difficulties have been limiting the development of the process, people in the perfection of pressurised acid leaching technology at the same time also continue to develop new nickel laterite wet process, such as atmospheric leaching, bioleaching and other technologies, in recent years, these new processes are much attention, compared with the pressurised acid leaching process, they have the following advantages.
- Atmospheric leaching, bioleaching technology can deal with relatively high magnesium content of nickel laterite ore, are suitable for the treatment of low-grade ore.
- Atmospheric leaching, bioleaching can be carried out under normal temperature and pressure conditions, low requirements for equipment, simple process, easy to operate, and therefore less investment, low production costs.
- The pressurised acid leaching method has more solid-liquid waste and pollutes the environment. The new processes such as bioleaching will not produce SO2 gas, and the solid-liquid waste generated can be accepted by the environment, which is very environmentally friendly.
However, these new processes are not yet mature and there are still some technical difficulties, such as the difficulty in separating the leachate in atmospheric leaching, and the problem that organic acids cannot be recycled in bioleaching, and it is known from current reports that the leaching rate of nickel and cobalt in the treatment of nickel laterite ores by atmospheric and bioleaching technologies is generally lower than that by pressurised acid leaching. Although there are many difficulties, it is believed that through continuous improvement of technology, they will eventually be solved and atmospheric pressure leaching and bioleaching will definitely have a good development prospect.
Nickel production methods
Electrolysis: The enriched sulphide ore is roasted to oxide, reduced with charcoal to crude nickel and then electrolysed to give pure metallic nickel.
Carbonylation method: Nickel sulphide ores are interacted with carbon monoxide to produce nickel tetracarbonyl, which is heated and decomposed to give another very pure nickel metal.
Hydrogen reduction method: Nickel oxide is reduced with hydrogen to give nickel metal.
Types Of Nickel Products And Classification Of Product Grades
Nickel product range
Nickel Basic Products
Nickel strip, nickel sheet, nickel plate, nickel rod, nickel beads, nickel foil, nickel disc, nickel scrap, nickel welding rod, nickel sponge, nickel products, nickel trim, nickel angle nickel mesh, electrolytic nickel, electroformed nickel, foamed nickel, pure nickel wire, mobile phone signs, electroformed nickel trim, electroformed nickel trim, battery conductive nickel sheet, moulded nickel disc, nickel electroformed signs, nickel scrap printing, nickel mesh, nickel beads.
Nickel Alloy Products
Nickel-iron alloy, nickel-molybdenum alloy, nickel-cobalt alloy, nickel-aluminium alloy, high nickel alloy, nickel-zinc alloy, nickel-copper alloy, Dumet wire, nickel-tin beads, nickel sub-nickel powder.
Domestic Nickel Products
Jinchuan Nickel, Jien Nickel, Xinjiang Xinxin, Jiangxi Jianglv.
Imported Nickel Products
Inco Nickel (2006 Vale Vale acquired Inco Canada to become vale Canada), Sumitomo Japan, Fasin Nickel, Norwegian Nickel, Brazilian Nickel, N6 Nickel Flake, Russian Norilsk Nickel, Falcon-bridge Nickel, Australian Nickel.
Nickel product grade classification
- Electrolytic nickel, nickel bullion and nickel pellets of 99.8% or more pure nickel used for trading on the London Metal Exchange (LME). It is used in a wide range of applications, including alloys for special steels, electronic and aerospace materials, catalysts, electroplating, battery materials, etc.
- i.e. nickel-iron alloys (16% to 40% nickel), nickel oxide (75% to 98% nickel) and general purpose nickel (about 98% nickel), etc. Almost all are used for special steel. In addition, there are also NiSO4. Ni(OH)2, NiCl2. NiCO3 and other compound products. Most of the secondary products are in the form of nickel blocks as raw material, which should be converted into actual nickel content when calculating consumption.
Introduction To The Uses And Applications Of Nickel
Introduction to the application of nickel
Nickel has very good plasticity, corrosion resistance and magnetic properties, so it is mainly used in steel, nickel-based alloys, electroplating and batteries, etc. It is widely used in various military manufacturing industries such as aircraft and radar, civil machinery manufacturing and electroplating industries.
Iron and steel field
Due to its good corrosion resistance, high temperature resistance and rust prevention properties, nickel is widely used in stainless steel and alloy steel and other steel fields.
Nickel is the most consumed in stainless steel applications, with 2/3 of the world’s primary nickel ore being used in the production of stainless steel. Nickel-containing stainless steel is resistant to corrosion by both atmosphere, steam and water, as well as acids, alkalis and salts, and is therefore widely used in chemical, metallurgical and construction industries, such as making containers, towers, tanks and pipes that require welding in petrochemical, textile, light industry and nuclear energy industries; manufacturing corrosion-resistant high-pressure equipment such as synthesis towers, scrubbing towers, condensing towers and steam lift towers in urea production. According to the different proportion of nickel, nickel-containing stainless steel is mainly divided into: austenitic stainless steel, austenitic-ferritic duplex stainless steel, precipitation hardening stainless steel.
Alloy steels are also known as special steels. Due to the different ratios of its elements, the types vary. Nickel-containing alloy steels are mainly used in the manufacture of acid-resistant towers for chemical production, medical equipment, everyday items, and for the transformation of bridges, the construction of warships and other machinery manufacturing, transportation and military industries.
Nickel-based alloys are a class of alloys that have a high strength and a certain resistance to corrosion at high temperatures from 650 to 1000°C. According to the main properties can be subdivided into nickel-based heat-resistant alloys, nickel-based corrosion-resistant alloys, nickel-based wear-resistant alloys, nickel-based precision alloys and nickel-based shape memory alloys. Nickel-based alloys are used in electric furnaces, irons, turbine engines, combustion chambers, turbine blades, colour televisions, communication equipment, pendulums in clocks and measuring tapes, furniture, fine tools with permanent magnet properties, automatic opening structural parts for spacecraft, self-stimulating fasteners for the aerospace industry and artificial heart motors for biomedical applications. They are used in a wide range of industries such as aviation, marine, chemical, electronics, medicine and energy.
Nickel plating is the process of covering steel and other metal substrates with a durable, corrosion-resistant coating that is 20% to 25% more resistant to corrosion than galvanising. Nickel-plated items are aesthetically pleasing, clean and resistant to rusting. Electroplated nickel is the second most processed after electroplated zinc, and its consumption accounts for about 10% of total nickel production. Nickel plating is divided into electroplated nickel and chemical nickel plating. The characteristics of electroplated nickel and chemical nickel plating are analysed as follows.
Electroplated nickel layer in the air is very stable, extremely fine crystallization, and has excellent polishing properties, the plating hardness is relatively high can improve the wear resistance of the product surface, widely used in optical instruments plating, protective decorative plating, casting crystallizer electronic components, etc.
Electroless nickel plating
Good uniformity of thickness, no hydrogen penetration, no hydrogen embrittlement, no need to remove hydrogen after electroless nickel plating. Many chemical nickel plating products have better corrosion resistance and resistance to high temperature oxidation than electroplated nickel, can be deposited on the surface of various materials, do not require the DC motor or control equipment required for general plating, low heat treatment temperature as long as below 400°C after different holding times, different corrosion resistance and wear resistance can be obtained, therefore, especially suitable for complex shapes, the surface requires wear and corrosion resistant parts of the functional plating, etc.
Types of nickel plating baths
The main types of nickel plating solutions are sulphate, chloride, aminosulphonate, citrate and fluoroborate. Among them, the sulphate type (low chloride), known as Watts, is the most commonly used nickel plating solution in industry. Aminosulphonate and fluoroborate types are suitable for thick nickel plating or electroforming. The citrate type is suitable for direct nickel plating on zinc die castings. The cost of these plating solutions is relatively high. Other types of nickel plating include: normal nickel plating (dark plating), bright nickel, aminosulphonate nickel plating, high sulphur nickel, nickel seal, satin nickel, high stress nickel, multi-layer nickel plating, citrate nickel plating, etc.
Metal plated nickel is also used in the field of batteries, mainly nickel-hydrogen batteries, cadmium-nickel batteries and nickel-manganese batteries. The most rapid development in recent years is the application of increasingly practical MHx-Ni battery, the advantages of its non-toxic green non-pollution, battery storage capacity than nickel-cadmium batteries 30% more, lighter than nickel-cadmium batteries, longer service life, the disadvantage is that the price than nickel-cadmium batteries to expensive, poor performance than lithium batteries. Mainly used in mobile communications, notebooks, video recorders and other fields at the same time also used in the military, national defence, high-tech fields. Cars powered by these batteries have also been put on the market.
The world’s NiMH batteries are mainly produced by Chinese and Japanese enterprises, accounting for more than 95% of global production, of which more than 70% are produced in China. Chinese NiMH battery enterprises mainly include Chaoba, Haopeng, BYD, Huangyu, Keliyuan, Likexing, Sanpu, Disheng, Sanjie, Quantum, Grip, etc. Japanese companies Panasonic, Yuasa and Sanyo have moved the production of small NiMH batteries to China. large NiMH batteries for HEVs are mainly produced in Japan, mainly by Primearth Electric Vehicle Energy (PEVE) and Sanyo Electric, due to the merger of Panasonic and Sanyo, and the sale of Panasonic’s Shonan factory to China’s Qualicom. As a result, large NiMH batteries have been produced mainly by Panasonic.
The growth of NiMH batteries in China has been sluggish, with product output and production in recent years not exceeding the peak in 2008. 2011, the output and production of NiMH batteries were 5.5 billion yuan and 950 million units respectively, down 15.38% and 26.36% respectively compared to 2008. The reduction in product scale makes NiMH batteries even less economical in scale and the future scenario is worrying.
- Nickel composites are used as catalysts in petrochemical hydrogenation and in the synthesis of methane, with the advantage that they are not easily poisoned by H2S and S02.
- Nickel compounds can be made into pigments and dyes. Nickel can also be made into new ceramics such as nickel ferrite and nickel-zinc ferrite for transformer cores and radio antennas, etc.
- Very fine nickel powder is commonly used as a catalyst in the chemical industry.
- Nickel is magnetic and can be attracted to magnets. The magnetism is even stronger with alloys made from aluminium, cobalt and nickel. It can be used to make electromagnetic cranes.
Distribution Of Nickel Ore Reserves And Production
Distribution of nickel ore resources
The world’s nickel resources are very rich and contain quite a lot in the earth’s crust, but much less than oxygen, silicon, aluminium, iron and magnesium,. The highest nickel content is found in the earth’s core, which is a natural nickel-iron alloy. Nickel ore content in the earth’s crust is 0.018%. Iron and magnesium rocks in the earth’s crust contain more nickel than silica and aluminium rocks, for example, peridotite contains 1000 times more nickel than granite and gabbro contains 80 times more nickel than granite. The distribution of nickel resources in the world is about 55% in laterite nickel, 28% in sulphide nickel and 17% in seafloor ferromanganese nodules. Seabed ferromanganese nodules have not yet been actually exploited due to factors such as mining technology and pollution of the ocean.
Data released by the USGS in 2015 shows that the global proven nickel base reserves are about 81 million tonnes and the total resources are 148 million tonnes, with about 60% of the base reserves being nickel laterite and about 40% being nickel sulphide ore.
1. Nickel Sulphide Ore
Jinchuan Nickel Belt in Gansu Province and Panshui Nickel Belt in Jilin Province, China; Sudbury Nickel Belt in Ontario, Canada; Lynn Lake-Thompson Nickel Belt in Manitoba, Canada; Kojia Peninsula Nickel Belt in the USSR; Norilsk (HophHjibck) Nickel Belt in Siberia, Russia. KaMbalda Nickel Belt, Australia; Selebi Phikwe Nickel Belt, Botswana; Kotalahti Nickel Belt, Finland.
2. Nickel laterites
New Caledonia, South Pacific; Moluccas and Sulawesi, Indonesia; Palawan, Philippines; Queensland, Australia; Minas Gerais and Goiás, Brazil. Gerais and Goias in Brazil; Oriente in Cuba; Banan in Dominica; Lary mma in Greece; and some nickel belts in the USSR and Albania.
- laterite-type ores: mainly in Cuba, New Caledonia, Indonesia, the Philippines, Myanmar, Vietnam and Brazil near the equator.
- Sulphide-type mines: mainly in Canada, Russia, Australia, China and South Africa.
Data from the USGS in 2015 showed that the global nickel reserves were 81 million tonnes, of which 19 million tonnes were in Australia, 12 million tonnes in New Caledonia, 9.1 million tonnes in Brazil, 7.9 million tonnes in Russia and 5.5 million tonnes in Cuba.
Nickel Ore Reserves in China
China’s sulphide-type nickel ore resources are relatively abundant, mainly distributed in the northwest, southwest and northeast of the country, with the proportion of retained reserves accounting for 76.8%, 12.1% and 4.9% of the country’s total reserves respectively. In terms of provinces (regions), Gansu has the largest reserves, accounting for 62% of the country’s total nickel reserves (with Jinchang ranking second in the world in terms of nickel production and refining scale), followed by Xinjiang (11.6%), Yunnan (8.9%), Jilin (4.4%), Hubei (3.4%) and Sichuan (3.3%).
The three major nickel mines in China are: Jinchuan Nickel Mine, Kharatunk Nickel Mine and Huangshan Nickel Mine. The main producers are: Jinchuan Group Co Ltd, Jilin Ji’en Nickel Industry Co Ltd and Xinjiang Non-Ferrous Metal Industry (Group) Fukang Smelter.
Jinchuan Group is the largest producer of electrolytic nickel in China, mainly producing nickel, copper, cobalt, platinum group precious metals, non-ferrous rolled processing products, chemical products and non-ferrous chemicals. Currently, Jinchuan Group ranks 4th in the world in terms of annual nickel production and has developed a production capacity of 150,000 tonnes of nickel per year. The Jinchuan nickel-copper mine owned by Jinchuan Group is a world-renowned large-scale multi-metal symbiotic sulphide mine with a proven resource of 520 million tonnes. At present, Jinchuan Group holds 430 million tonnes of ore resources, including 4.5 million tonnes of nickel metal. 135,000 tonnes of nickel were produced by the division in 2012 and 141,000 tonnes in 2013.
At the same time, China is also one of the countries where laterite nickel ore resources are relatively scarce, the current national laterite nickel ore holdings only account for 9.6% of all nickel resources, not only the reserves are relatively small, and the domestic laterite nickel ore grade is relatively low, the mining costs are relatively high, which means that China is not competitive in laterite nickel ore. And China is the main producer of stainless steel products, laterite nickel ore is the main source of ferronickel, and ferronickel is the main raw material for stainless steel, so China needs to import a large amount of laterite nickel ore every year to develop the stainless steel industry. The main importing countries are Indonesia, Australia and the Philippines.
Jinchang, Gansu – the nickel capital of China
Jinchang is located in the eastern part of the Hexi Corridor in Gansu Province and is rich in mineral resources, especially nickel, and is known as the “nickel capital” of China. Jinchang’s rich nickel reserves are so large that it ranks second in the world and first in the country after Canada’s Sudbury mine. In addition, its reserves of 20 minerals, including platinum, palladium, bentonite, cobalt, selenium, copper, associated sulphur and granite material, rank first in the country, and its reserves of copper and cobalt rank second in the country.
Current Developments In The Recycled Nickel Industry
The value of nickel scrap recycling
With the development of economic construction and the steel industry, nickel is widely used as an alloying element, of which stainless steel accounts for more than half of global nickel consumption. The development of the recycled nickel industry is important because of the high price of nickel and the dwindling amount of nickel resources.
Recycled nickel, also known as nickel scrap. Around 99% of its raw materials are nickel-containing scrap in various forms from stainless steel, superalloys and batteries. The source of nickel-containing scrap is mainly the “new scrap” from stainless steel processing and the “old scrap” from stainless steel scrapping. Industry experts predict that the total amount of nickel-containing scrap collected each year is 4.4-4.6 million tonnes, of which the nickel content is nearly 350,000 tonnes, a quarter of the total nickel demand.
As the most valuable common non-ferrous metal for recycling, nickel resources can be recycled not only to protect the environment, but also to avoid the loss of precious nickel caused by landfill, so that nickel resources can be more fully and effectively used. It also drives the development of the resource recycling industry. Industries that consume nickel-containing waste can thus reduce their raw material costs by 5-10%. The level of recycling of scrap in Europe is higher than in the Americas and Asia. The USA, Japan and other developed countries have a strict classification of nickel secondary resources for recycling, with a recovery rate of over 80%.
Since nickel is used almost mostly in the form of alloy products, it is rarely recycled in pure metal form. Worldwide nickel consumption structure of stainless steel accounted for 61%, China stainless steel with nickel has accounted for 82% of the total consumption. Domestic and international attention is paid to the recycling of stainless steel scrap, and this industry has become an independent cycle. There are a total of 4-5 international level nickel scrap processing plants worldwide, ensuring that nickel scrap is collected from all over the world. Most of the nickel scrap comes from stainless steel in obsolete plants, machinery and equipment and consumer products.
Current status and prospects for recycling in China’s nickel industry
China’s nickel supply consists of two parts, one is the supply of newly produced nickel concentrate accounting for 72.9%, the other part from recycled nickel accounting for 27.1%, it can be seen that the development of the recycled nickel industry in China is still relatively backward, but at the same time, it also shows that its development space is huge, at present, the national development direction of the recycled nickel industry is scale, specialization and environmental protection. Domestic high-temperature alloy, electroplating, battery, recycled copper electrolysis and other industries have reached an annual production of nickel scrap of more than 50,000 tons (in nickel), but the amount of domestic nickel scrap recycling is relatively small. In addition to direct recycling by enterprises in industries such as high-temperature alloys, electroplating and batteries, a number of markets have been formed for the collection and distribution of miscellaneous nickel scrap materials, promoting the recycling of miscellaneous nickel scrap to achieve significant development. According to the survey, during the peak of the nickel price, the domestic recycling of miscellaneous nickel scrap can reach more than 15,000 tons (metal amount). But since then, as nickel prices have fallen and nickel-containing pig iron has replaced some scrap stainless steel, domestic nickel recycling has shown a downward trend.
At the same time, the development of recycled nickel in China still has some problems, such as imperfect recycling system, domestic renewable nickel resources centralised scale processing degree is not high, waste batteries are included in the “banned imports of solid waste catalogue” to limit the amount of raw materials used by enterprises, for the above existing problems, it is recommended that the state including waste nickel resources in the amount of recycled resources in the mainland to regulate the recycling, to promote resource recycling on the formal road. It is recommended that the administrative system should be strengthened, pilot enterprises for waste secondary batteries and production trimmings should be established, and a number of enterprises that meet environmental requirements and have “higher” utilisation technologies and techniques should be supported to engage in the recycling of renewable resources.
The Effects Of Nickel On Human Health
Introduction to the effects of nickel on human health
Nickel is an essential element for human life and is present in very small amounts in the human body, with a normal concentration of 0.11μgNi.ml-1 in the blood and about 10mg in the adult body. Nickel deficiency can cause diabetes, anaemia, liver cirrhosis, uremia, renal failure, abnormalities in hepatic lipid and phospholipid metabolism and other conditions.
Nickel is also the most common allergenic metal, with around 20% of the population being allergic to nickel ions, with more women than men suffering from allergies. When in contact with the body, nickel ions can penetrate the skin through the pores and sebaceous glands, causing skin irritation and inflammation, with clinical manifestations such as itching, papular or blistering dermatitis and eczema with mossiness. Once allergic symptoms have developed, nickel allergy can persist indefinitely.
More serious is the poisoning caused by excessive intake of nickel. A daily intake of 250mg of soluble nickel can cause toxicity, with symptoms such as dermatitis, respiratory organ disorders and respiratory cancers.
Nickel is harmful to the human body
Oral administration of large amounts of nickel salts, which are less toxic than nickel that enters the bloodstream directly, can result in vomiting, diarrhoea, acute gastroenteritis and gingivitis.
Nickel salts in general are less toxic, but colloidal nickel or nickel chloride, nickel sulphide and nickel carbonyl are more toxic and can cause central circulatory and respiratory disturbances, causing oedema, haemorrhage and degeneration of the must muscles, brain, lungs and kidneys.
One of the reasons why smoking can easily cause lung cancer is that nickel is a high element in the 49 trace elements contained in cigarettes, which has an irritating and damaging effect on the lungs and respiratory tract, and more importantly, it is caused by the combination of nickel and carbon monoxide in the smoke into carbonyl.
The high incidence of lung cancer among workers in nickel refining operations is also the result of the inhalation of generated nickel pollutants into the body.
Investigations have shown that nickel levels in well water, river water, soil and rock are positively correlated with mortality from nasopharyngeal cancer.
Nickel may also be a causative factor in leukaemia. The level of nickel in the serum of leukaemia patients is 2-5 times higher than that of healthy people, and the degree of disease is significantly correlated with the level of nickel in the serum. Measurement of serum nickel levels can therefore be used as a diagnostic aid for leukaemia and can be used to estimate the disease and predict trends.
Diseases such as asthma and urinary calculi are associated with nickel levels in the body. Nickel also has fertility-reducing, teratogenic and mutagenic effects.
It has been shown that drinking water with high nickel content every day can increase the incidence of cancer, especially if you are already suffering from cancer and must avoid contact with nickel products during radiotherapy. Some of the ceramic drinking utensils available on the market should be used with caution, and taking a ceramic utensil with a high nickel content as a drinking utensil in your daily life can increase your chances of developing cancer.
Nickel is the most common metal element that causes contact allergy
The presence of nickel in certain items that come into direct and prolonged contact with the human body can cause skin irritation and may lead to allergic reactions, especially in certain Western populations. In response to this situation, the European Union has become increasingly stringent in its requirements for nickel release limits.
Nickel allergy is no longer an irrelevant topic and exposure to nickel is a regular part of life, not only in clothing but also in earrings, watches, coins, children’s toys and kitchenware. However, there is a new source of nickel release whose effects are often overlooked: smartphones.
In 2011, a Danish study tested 50 mobile phones and found that nine out of 18 per cent of them released nickel.
In March 2012, the data was updated again, claiming that 25% of the phones released nickel. Even some of our highly sought-after iPhone models are no exception, again releasing enough nickel to cause allergies.
We can put a case on our phones to create a barrier between our skin and the screen, blocking the release of nickel. Or use a headset instead of talking directly into the phone to minimise contact between the body of the phone and your face and ears to reduce the chances of nickel allergy.
Prevention of nickel poisoning
People with occupational exposure to nickel should have regular medical check-ups at hospitals; people with non-occupational exposure to nickel should stay away from nickel smelting and production environments, especially from areas with high nickel dust.Avoid using stainless steel utensils for decocting Chinese medicine to avoid the reaction of alkaloids and organic acids in Chinese medicine under heating conditions, etc.
- Some porcelain cups and utensils should be chosen carefully.
- The country should establish appropriate regulations and policies to regulate the pollution of the environment by the nickel industry and pay attention to the life safety of special workers.
- Legislate the recycling of used batteries to avoid environmental pollution.
Nickel Industry Associations And Leading China And International Companies
Nickel Industry Association
The Nickel Institute is a not-for-profit trade association representing 24 nickel producers worldwide. These 24 companies account for over 90% of the world’s annual raw nickel production. The association was established on 1 January 2004. It was formed by the merger of the former Nickel Development International Association (NiDI) and the Nickel Producers Environmental Research Association (NiPERA). On behalf of its member companies, the Association is committed to promoting the socially and environmentally responsible production, application and reuse of nickel (through recycling) so that all nickel stakeholders can recognise that, through appropriate use, nickel is a metal that contributes significantly to sustainable development.
International Nickel Study Group
The International nickel study group (INSG) is an autonomous intergovernmental organisation founded in Lisbon, Portugal in 1990. Its membership includes countries that produce, use (consume) and trade in nickel. Its main objectives are to collect and publish improved systematic data on the nickel market to enhance market transparency, to publish additional information on nickel, to provide a forum for discussion of nickel-related matters and to provide economic analysis of the nickel market and related topics. A monthly bulletin of global nickel statistics is produced, as well as a world directory of nickel producing plants. Two meetings are held in Portugal each year, in April and October. The meetings are open only to government and industry representatives of member countries. Non-member countries with a strong interest in nickel are sometimes invited to observe INSG meetings to encourage them to join. Long-term industry association observer missions and invited observer organisations may also attend the meetings.
Well-known companies in the nickel industry
- Well-known domestic companies: Gene Nickel, Zhongjin Lingnan, TISCO Stainless, China Nickel Resources, Guiyuan Platinum, Greenmei, Keliyuan, Jinchuan Group, Xinjiang Non-Ferrous
- Metals Industry (Group) Fukang Smelter, Xinjiang Xinxin, Jianglithium Technology, Hanking Group, etc.
- Famous foreign enterprises.
- Russia: Norilsk Nickel (MMC Norilsk Nickel).
- Brazil: Vale SA (Vale).
- United Kingdom: Xstrata Plc, Anglo American Plc.
- Australia: BHP Billiton Ltd, Minara Resources Ltd.
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