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Bureau of Mines / Minerals yearbook: Metals and minerals 1978-79
Year 1978-79, Volume 1 (1978-1979)

Matthews, Norman A.
Nickel,   pp. 629-641 ff. PDF (1.6 MB)


Page 629

  629Nickel 
By Norman A. Matthews1 
 The nickel market improved progressiveiy during 1978 and 1979. Domestic
consuinption reached near-record levels in 1979 as stainless steel, superalloy,
and other highnickel-alloy producers operated at capacity levels. With respect
to the United States, recovery of high demand levels in Western Europe and
Japan followed about 6 months and 1 year later, respectively, so that world
consumption of primary nickel in 1979 attained a record level, estimated
at 829,000 tons. 
 Major producers operated at 55% to 60% of capacity in 1978 to reduce excessive
inventories and arrest the progressive price deterioration that began in
1977. Continued curtailment of production during 1979, with operations at
perhaps 70% capacity, unproved demand, and a major work stoppage for 9 months
led to below-normal produce~ inventories, the reestablishment of firm producer
prices, and several price increases during the year. Most of the laterite
operations were unprofitable at the reduced volumes and depressed prices
of 1978, but they began to show a profit in the second half of 1979 after
prices increased over 50%. 
 The domestic pattern of usage remained substantially unchanged, with 45%
consumed in stainless and alloy steels; 35%, in nonferrous nickel- and copper-base
alloys; and 15%, in electroplating. During the 2year period, the percentage
of nickel consumed as Class I nickel forms (cathode, briquets, and pellets)
increased, while the percentage consumed as ferronickel and nickel oxide
declined, reversing the trend of recent years. 
 Cathode nickel prices, although generally not listed, approximated $2.08
per pound through mid-1978, gradually declining to a range of $1.93 to $2.00
by November. Most sales were at these or lower prices as producers and metal
merchants maneuvered to sustain sales in the highly competitive market. The
domestic ferronickel price stabilized at $1.38 per pound nickel by midyear
and declined further to $1.83 at yearend. With the reestablishment of producer
list prices in February 1979, five price increases followed, which increased
cathode and other pure nickel prices to $3.00 per pound by June, and $3.20
to 3.25 per pound in December. 
Table 1.—Salient nickel statistics 
(Short tons) 
1975 
1976 
1977 
1978 
1979 
United States: 
Mineproduction'                                Plant production: 
16,987 
16,469 
14,347 
13,509 
15,065 
Domesticores                                
Importedmaterials                            
Secondary2                                  
Exports(grossweight)                              
Imports for consumption                            
Consumption(primary)                             
Stocks,Dec31:Consumer                          
 Price,centsperpound                             world: Mine production 
14,343 
7,978 
17,880 
30,121 
160,507 
146,495 
35,485 
201-220 
890,532 
13,869 
20,070 
13,273 
47,166 
188,147 
162,927 
31,690 
220 
883,941 
12,897 
r250()() 
12,449 
39,412 
r194 770 
155,260 
r18581 
241-208 
r904 455 
11,298 
26,000 
12,304 
36,293 
240,032 
180,723 
20,443 
210-193 
731,371 
11,691 
32,500 
13,201 
50,810 
183,742 
196,293 
19,518 
193-320 
776,516 
 TReV~ 
' Mine shipments. 
' Nonferrous scrap only; does not include nickel from stainless or alloy
steel scrap. 


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