Nickel prices are forecast to reach $16,000/mt in 2020 from $14,000/Mt in 2019 driven by higher consumption, Indonesia’s ban on nickel ore exports and ramp up of Australia’s nickel production, according to the Australian Department of Industry, Innovation and Science. Australia’s production will expand to 270,000mt in 2020-21 from 225,000mt in 2019. In the third quarter of 2019, nickel prices moderated to $16,000/mt which is 39pc higher from the prior year.
Global nickel demand is projected to grow at an average of 2pc at 2.5mn Mt by 2021 again with highest usage accounted from China. Indonesian usage is also expected to grow with export ban in place and expanded stainless steel manufacturing. Indonesia is estimated to produce around 6,500mt of stainless steel.
China accounts for more than half of global nickel consumption and grew by 13pc compared to the same period last year. Although the global consumption except China dropped by 2.9pc compared to 2018 primarily due to lower consumption in Japan and Indonesia. Nickel used in batteries for electric vehicle accounts for about 3pc of the nickel global consumption. However, it is projected to increase by 20pc with the increase in the production of electric vehicles.
Mined nickel was estimated to have reached 2.6mn mt in 2019 at 7pc higher than 2018. The refined production is forecasted to reach 2.4mn mt by 2021 as opposed to estimated 2.3mn mt in 2019 with the support of investment in refinery capacity.
Australia’s nickel exports are projected to grow at 9pc in a year at $4.7bn in 2020-21 from $3.6bn in 2018-19 due to stronger prices. Export volumes are forecasted to increase 225,000mt in 2018-19 to 270,000mt in 2020-21. Australian mine production is also expected to grow and recover from closures in 2018-19 at 161,000mt to 223,000mt in 2020.