What we do
We are an information company, working with mining-service companies (suppliers, consultants and contractors). We offer several services.
The first is a reporting service on mining projects in Australia and, where driven from Australia, overseas.
The second comprises directories of key people in mining in Australia.
Our most recent directory covers procurement people working with mining companies. The first part (eastern states) has just been released (28 July); the second part will be released in late August.
The third is consultancy work, ranging from providing strategic advice on particular markets, to analysing market trends and assisting clients in pursuing specific market opportunities.
See Samples and Order Form above for further details of the project reports and procurement directory.
A paper outlining our consultancy experience over the past decade is available on request.
Source: Stephen Codrington
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THE NICKEL OPTIMISTS
28 July 2020
Most nickel is used in producing stainless steel.
However, in the form of nickel sulphate (shown below), nickel has a growing use in lithium-ion batteries. Such batteries are used in electronic devices and electric vehicles.
In the view of BHP (a major nickel producer), "the demand for high quality nickel sulphate will surge as the trend towards electric vehicles increases”.
BHP spells out this view in several articles published last year on its website, giving high and low forecasts for global sales of electric vehicles between now and 2050.
Its mid-range forecasts are that electric vehicles will make up around 30% of new vehicle sales in 2030 and around 70% in 2050 (from 2.5% in 2019).
In addition, BHP believes that “nickel-rich chemistries present the best opportunity to achieve the positive (battery) performance characteristics that are required for electric vehicles”.
The company is giving substance to its optimism, purchasing in recent months several nickel deposits (including Honeymoon Well) within 100 kilometres of its Leinster and Mt Keith nickel mines in Western Australia.
Many share BHP’s optimism. But there are dissenting views.
First, sales of electric vehicles have been hit hard over the past year. In China (the world’s biggest market), sales fell in the second half of 2019, following a reduction in subsidies to producers. Then came the coronavirus pandemic, with research company Wood MacKenzie expecting electric-vehicle sales to fall this year by over 40% as a result.
Will the market pick-up as from next year? Will subsidies continue as in recent years? And, if they don't, will strong production growth continue? No-one can reasonably answer these questions with confidence.
Second, even if demand for electric-vehicles and nickel-rich batteries does increase strongly in coming years, the benefits for nickel prices are not assured – this will depend on how quickly supply increases.
The two largest producers (Indonesia followed by the Philippines) account for 45% of world production. Indonesia has ambitious plans for expansion, particularly of processed nickel products (e.g. ferro-nickel). Production in the Philippines – which is more dependent on unprocessed ore – is expected to expand steadily. And expansion is likely from other key exporters, such as Russia, Australia and Canada.
If supply increases more quickly than demand, prices will go down (and nickel producers will suffer accordingly). This has happened to lithium: in the face of a strong increase in supply in recent years, lithium prices today are less than half their level of late 2017.
Uncertainties surrounding supply, demand and prices are common to all mining sectors.
But such uncertainties do not sit easily with the apparent certainty underlying the outlook for electric vehicles (“strong growth is unstoppable and nickel is bound to benefit”).
Is it time to think afresh?