Bureau of Mines / Minerals yearbook: Metals and minerals 1977
Year 1977, Volume 1 (1977)
Corrick, John D.
Nickel, pp. 657-671 ff. PDF (1.9 MB)
MINERALS YEARBOOK, 1977658 DOMESTIC PRODUCTION The one domestic nickel mine, operated by Hanna Mining Co. at Riddle, Oreg., produced 14,347 tons of nickel from laterite ore, as measured by mine shipments. Nickel recovered at the Hanna smelter and byproduct nickel salts and metals produced at copper and other metal refineries amounted to 12,897 tons; part of the byproduct output originated from scrap. AMAX Inc.'s Port Nickel refinery, located at Braithwaite, La., increased nickel production from 20,070 tons in 1976 to 25,000 tons in 1977, which is about 75% of capacity. The AMAX facility is a pure nickel refinery processing nickelcopper matte and producing refined nickel along with copper, cobalt, and ammonium sulfate as byproducts. Both companies announced plans in 1977 for establishing operating levels that would coincide with market demands in the coming year. At midyear, AMAX announced an agreement to purchase the total production of the Western Australia Agnew project, up to an annual maximum of 16,500 tons of nickel contained in concentrate. Western Mining Corp. in Kalgoorlie, Western Australia, would toll-smelt the concentrate to matte for the joint venture; the matte would be shipped to the Port Nickel, La. plant for refining to pure nickel. Matte was being supplied in 1977 to the AMAX refinery from Rustenburg Platinum Mines Ltd. in the Republic of South Africa, Société Metallurgique Le Nickel (SLN) in New Caledonia, and Bamangwato Concessions Ltd. in Botswana. AMAX Exploration Inc. announced that its test shaft near Babbitt. Minn., was bottomed at 1,728 feet on June 10. Underground exploration of the deposit will consist of four drifts totaling 3,600 feet. The exploration was being done to determine the continuity of mineralization indicated by diamond drilling from the surface. The company also wanted to determine the mining and environmental parameters, and excavate bulk samples for concentrating tests at facilities in the United States and Canada, as well as conduct smelting tests on the concentrate at plants employing the Outokumpu-type flash furnaces. Inspiration Development Co. conducted exploration studies at the Eight Dollar Mountain deposit in Josephine County in southwestern Oregon. The work involved seismic surveying, mapping, back-hoe sampling, and trommel processing of large bulk samples to test upgrading techniques. The Federal Bureau of Mines conducted reconnaissance sampling and bulk sampling of this and other southwestern Oregon laterites. Reportedly, INCO Ltd. continued to make progress on the construction of its plant at Ellwood City, Pa. for converting waste particulates into remelt alloys. Falconbridge Nickel Mines Ltd. (FALCO) formed a new marketing subsidiary in the United States known as Falconbridge U.S. Inc., located in Pittsburgh, Pa. Warehousing facilities have been strategically located in several U.S. centers to improve product distribution. Table 2.—Primary nickel produced in the United States (Short tons, contained nickel) 1973 1974 1975 1976 1977 Domestic ores — 13,895 14,093 14,343 13,869 12,897 Imported materials — — — — 226 7,978 20,070 24,757 CONSUMPTION AND USES The demand for nickel stagnated in 1977, showing a slight decrease from that registered in 1976. Consumer-held stocks reached their lowest level in nearly 6 years, totaling 18.6 million pounds at yearend 1977. The low level of stocks could be attributed to consumer's confidence that they could obtain nickel from producers in nearly any quantity needed and on short notice, because producers' stocks were at record high levels. Ferronickel and nickel oxide increased their share of the total U.S. nickel market in 1977 at the expense of pure unwrought nickel. Pure unwrought nickel accounted for 62% of the total nickel consumed in 1977, compared with 64% in 1976 and 68% in 1975. Most of the pure nickel was consumed in the production of nickel wrought products and nickel alloys and electroplating. Ferronickel accounted for 20% of the total nickel consumed in 1977, compared with 19% in 1976 and 17% in 1975. Principal consumption of ferronickel was in stainless and alloy steels. Domestic nickel consumption in 1977 decreased 4.7% compared with that consumed in 1976. The pattern of nickel consumption in 1977 was as follows: stainless and heat-resisting steels, 34%; other nickel and nickel alloys, 21%; electroplating, 14%; alloy steels, 11%; and superalloys, 7%.
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