Nickel Mining in Canada: Everything You Need to Know

Nickel Mining in Canada: Everything You Need to Know

nickel mining facts canada

Did you know that Canada is a global leader in nickel production, an essential component of countless products we rely on daily?! From anti-corrosion alloys and stainless-steel appliances to jet engines and electric vehicles, nickel plays a huge role in the contemporary lifestyle most Canadians are fortunate enough to enjoy.

And with projected growing global demand for the metal over the next several years, Canada should be doing everything it can to provide the world with more nickel. According to an analysis by Rystad Energy, global demand for high-grade nickel will outweigh supply by 2024 because of its essential role in EV batteries and other technologies essential to the energy transition.

Canada, the world’s sixth-largest producer and seventh-largest reserve holder of nickel in 2020, has an incredible opportunity to develop its reserves and further boost overall production.

To paint a clear picture of nickel mining in Canada for you, we’ve compiled several facts that explore its uses, history and other pertinent information related to this increasingly valuable metal.

10 Canadian Nickel Mining Facts

canada top global producer of nickel

#1 - Canada produced more than 167,000 tonnes of nickel and was the sixth-largest producer in 2020, accounting for 6.7% of global production (NRC)

#2 – With more than 2 million tonnes of discovered reserves, Canada is home to the seventh-largest nickel deposits in the world in 2020 (NRC)

#3 - Canada also produced more than 124,000 tonnes of refined nickel at three refineries located in Fort Saskatchewan, Alberta, Sudbury, Ontario and Long Harbour, Newfoundland & Labrador (NRC)

#4 - Exports of Canadian nickel and nickel-based products totalled $3.9 billion in 2020 (NRC)

#5 – Canada exported more than 107,000 tonnes of unwrought nickel valued at $2 billion in 2020, with the top five export destinations including:

• United States (50%)

• China (14%)

• Netherlands (12%)

• Belgium (5%)

• Japan (4%)

#6 – Nickel was first discovered in Canada in 1883, and direct mining began in the 1890s (Investing News)

#7 – Nickel is used to manufacture more than 3,000 different alloys (University of Waterloo)

#8 – Canada became the leading global supplier of nickel in the early 1900s due to the establishment of major companies International Nickel (1902) and Falconbridge Nickel Mines (1928) (University of Waterloo)

#9 – In 1905, Canada replaced Caledonia, a small island in the Pacific Ocean, as the world’s leading source of nickel (University of Waterloo)

#10 – Nickel is an essential component of lithium-ion batteries for electric and hybrid vehicles (NRC)

Where is Nickel Found in Canada?

nickel pendlandite nickel-suplhide ore

Pendlandite - Iron–Nickel Sulfide

Mixed nickel and copper sulphide deposits are found near Sudbury, Ontario. Similar deposits are also found in Manitoba’s Birchtree and Bucko Lake Mines and Voisey’s Bay area of Labrador. Nickel exploration projects are also underway in parts of British Columbia.

Canada’s largest nickel mining provinces include Ontario, Quebec, Newfoundland and Labrador and Manitoba. In 2020, these provinces accounted for all of Canada’s nickel mining capacity, with their respective percentages of domestic production as follows:

  • Ontario – 38.8%
  • Quebec – 33%
  • Newfoundland & Labrador – 19.7%
  • Manitoba – 8.5%

According to the University of Waterloo, the United States is Canada’s top customer for nickel. About one-third of the nickel mined in Canada is refined in Europe then sold to parts of the EU and the U.S.

Canada’s Largest Nickel Mines

The location of Canada’s largest nickel mines should also provide some perspective on where this valuable metal is found across the country. Canada’s top five nickel mines by production (2020) include:

#1 - Raglan, Quebec

The Raglan Mine is an underground operation found in Quebec. It produced more than 39,230 tonnes of nickel in 2020 and is projected to stay open until at least 2027.

#2 – Voisey’s Bay, Newfoundland & Labrador

The Voisey’s Bay Mine is located in Labrador and produced an estimated 35,700 tonnes of nickel in 2020. The mixed surface and underground operation is expected to continue operating until 2034.

#3 – Sudbury, Ontario

The Sudbury Mine is found in Ontario and produced approximately 17,670 tonnes of nickel in 2020. The mine is expected to stay open until 2035.

#4 – Coleman, Ontario

The Coleman Mine is an underground nickel mine located about 45 kilometres northwest of Sudbury, Ontario. In 2020, the mine produced more than 14,130 tonnes of nickel and is expected to operate until 2030.

#5 – Nunavik, Quebec

The Nunavik Nickel Project is a mixed surface and underground nickel mining operation in Quebec. In 2020, it produced an estimated 11,156 tonnes of nickel and is expected to stay open until 2028.

Source: Mining Technology

What is Nickel Used For?

growing global demand for lithium graphite cobalt nickel

Nickel is a silvery metal element mainly used to make stainless steel and alloys able to withstand extreme temperatures and corrosive environments.

Today, more than 70 per cent of global production is used to make stainless steel, however, demand for the compound is increasing as it is an essential component of electric vehicle batteries.

Uses of nickel include (but are not limited to):

  • Cast iron and steel
  • Stainless steel
  • Medical equipment
  • Cutlery
  • Coins
  • Laptops
  • Mobile phones
  • Power tools
  • Bathroom fixtures
  • Jewellery
  • Power generation
  • Alnico magnets
  • Sheet metal
  • Glass – produces a green colour
  • Armour plating for military vehicles
  • Weighing machines
  • Turbine blades
  • Watch hair springs
  • Electroplating
  • Measuring devices

History of Nickel in Canada

number of people employed by mining in Canada in 2019

The history of nickel mining in Canada is almost as old as our nation itself. Here is a quick historical timeline of nickel in Canada over the past several decades:

1883 – Nickel is first discovered in Canada near Sudbury, Ontario.

1890s – Nickel mining began where it was first discovered in Ontario.

1900s – Sudbury became known as the nickel capital of the world with the establishment of major companies like International Nickel in 1902 and Falconbridge Nickel Mines in 1928.

1905 – Canada replaces Caledonia, a small island in the Pacific, as the world’s leading source of nickel.

1918 – Nickel refining begins in Canada with the construction of Inco’s refinery at Port Colborne, Ontario, using hydroelectric power from Niagara Falls.

1956 – Commercially-viable nickel deposits are discovered in Manitoba at the Thompson Mine, leading Inco to make what was then the largest private capital investment in provincial history – at $175 million to build a modern mine and community infrastructure.

1997 – Inco’s exploration program discovers nickel deposits in Newfoundland and Labrador’s Voisey’s Bay area.

Today, Canada remains a top global nickel producer after several decades of establishing itself as a go-to source for the metal.

Canada is a top five global producer of more than 17 minerals and metals

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