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The global nickel industry is undergoing a significant change in its supply base, driven by the emergence of nickel-pig iron production in China. Nickel pig iron can be produced using low-grade nickel laterite ores fed directly into either blast or electric furnaces.

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In 2008, C&M undertook an extensive assessment of China's nickel pig industry, including an assessment of operating sites, production costs and technical performance.

China's nickel pig industry originally targeted 200 Series stainless steel producers, due to the relatively low quality requirements for these products. Improved technology, and the subsequent introduction of an intermediate refining stage, has resulted in a significant improvement in nickel pig quality.

The emergence of nickel pig provided a timely reprieve for Chinese stainless steel producers, who were coming under mounting cost pressures, and Chinese pig iron producers, whose low-volume capacity had been earmarked for closure under a new government initiative.

With nickel prices now well off their highs, it appears China's stainless producers may seek to integrate nickel pig production into their stainless steel operations. What impact is this likely to have on nickel imports into China?

For more information about C&M's nickel expertise, please contact us directly at info@clarkandmarron.com.au or download the Table of Contents for C&M's 2008 nickel pig study.

Nickel Report