COVID-19 and advancement of Indonesia’s export ban to reduce global nickel output by 7.4% in 2020, says GlobalData

Global nickel production is expected to decline by 7.4% to 2,195 thousand tonnes (kt) in 2020. Temporary suspensions of mines caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, along with the advancement of Indonesia’s export ban are expected to be the significant contributors towards this decline, according to GlobalData, a leading data and analytics company.

Indonesia’s mine production is expected to fall to 680kt in 2020 – down by 15%, compared with 800kt in 2019, owing to the advancement of the exports ban from 2022 to 2020.

Vinneth Bajaj, Senior Mining Analyst at GlobalData, comments: “Indonesian nickel mining companies without integrated nickel pig iron (NPI) operations have been facing difficulties in selling output to domestic smelters at low prices alongside inadequate capacity. Therefore, domestic miners have been either halting or curbing their output in the first three quarters of the year and this is expected to continue over the rest of 2020.”

Mine production in the Philippines is forecasted to fall by 9.3%, down to 293.4kt in 2020, as companies struggle to keep operating while combating the dual challenges of COVID-19 and weather disruptions. On 1 April 2020, Nickel Asia Corp. and Global Ferronickel Holdings Inc. suspended operations in the Surigao del Norte province, where most of the country’s mines are located, due to the COVID-19 pandemic. By mid-May, operations were resumed albeit with strict safety protocols.

Bajaj adds: “In contrast, despite the challenges caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, production in New Caledonia and Brazil is expected to collectively increase by 6.9% in 2020. The increase in production will be supported by the resumption of commercial production at the Santa Rita mine in Brazil, which was previously halted in 2015 due to low nickel prices. This will be supported by higher production from Vale’s Goro nickel project in New Caledonia.”

Looking ahead, global nickel mine production over the forecast period (2021–2024) is expected to recover at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 4.2%, to reach 2,638kt in 2024. Indonesia, Australia, the Philippines and Canada will be the key contributors to this growth. Combined production in these countries is expected to increase from an estimated 1,415.7kt in 2021 to 1,638.9kt in 2024. Projects which most likely to commence operations during the forecast period include Indonesia’s East Halmahera (2021) and Aquila Nickel projects (2023) and the Kingash project in Russia (2024).

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