Spare a Nickel for Vale? – by David Fickling (Bloomberg News – November 8, 2017)

Here’s a sign that 2017’s nickel boom is in full swing: Vale SA is looking to sell a slice of its New Caledonian unit, and seems to be attracting bidders.

The interest in Vale New Caledonia, or VNC, is surprising because the division — on a French-ruled island in the Pacific that’s due to hold a vote on independence next year — is one of the highest-cost mines in an industry that’s spent years losing money.

The existence of willing buyers is as strong a signal as you could want that the prospect of fresh demand from electric vehicle batteries is leading many to bet on a recovery from nickel’s three-year slump.

More than any other major metal, nickel’s story over the past few decades has been roiled by technological advances. Most of the world’s deposits consist of low-grade rocks known as laterites, but the difficulty of extracting metal meant that most production until recently came from sulfide ores.

These are most abundant in Canada, Russia and northern Scandinavia, and tend to be cheaper to produce because of other metals in the ores that can be sold as by-product.

For the rest of this article: