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)
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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