‘We all know batteries for electric vehicles are going to be very important new demand source of nickel’
After surging this past spring by 75 per cent, nickel prices have sagged badly in recent weeks, and the price per pound dropped below $5 on Thursday.
The slump follows predictions of higher prices in 2018, a disappointment for an industry that has waited years to recover. It’s especially important in Greater Sudbury, where mining employs about 17,500 people directly or indirectly.
So what’s going on? Terry Ortslan, a nickel analyst at TSO and Associates in Montreal, said Thursday the industry is facing a double whammy that’s depressing prices. While the market for stainless steel wasn’t expected to drive the price, demand for the higher-grade nickel needed for electric car batteries has hit a few speed bumps.
First, Ortslan said, Russian nickel giant Norilsk Nickel announced ambitious plans to increase production.
“They announced they were going to expand their battery-grade nickel capacity by 50 per cent by 2025,” he said. “That’s quite an aggressive strategy they are pursuing, because we all know that the battery-grade nickel is the one that’s going to be in demand for the expected electric vehicle production and consumption.” The lower-grade nickel that can be used for stainless steel can’t be used for batteries.