BHP Billiton came out with its production numbers for the nine months ending 31 March 2018. The company mentioned that Nickel West production for the nine months ended March 2018 increased by 10 per cent to 66 kt of nickel primarily due to increased production rates at Mt Keith and Leinster. Nickel production guidance for the 2018 financial year remains unchanged and is expected to be broadly in line with the 2017 financial year.
Nickel surged to a more than three-year high amid growing fears that Russias Norilsk Nickel, top producer of the metal, could be the next victim of US sanctions against Russia that has already caused chaos on aluminum markets. Nickel, used primarily in steelmaking, jumped as much as 4.6% to $ 14,870 a ton on the London Metal Exchange, the highest level since February 2015. Bullish sentiment was also boosted after production slumped 18% at Brazils Vale, world number two producer. Year to date nickel is the top performing major metal enjoying a 21% rise. Measured from the bottom of the mining cycle early 2016 nickel has nearly doubled in price.
Any sanctions against leading producer Norilsk could crimp output at a time when the market is headed for multi-year deficits thanks to additional demand from the electric vehicle market. Nickel, together with manganese and cobalt, is a crucial elements in batteries favoured by most of the worlds automakers as the industry moves away from the internal combustion engine.