Nickel occurs in nature principally as oxides, sulphides and silicates. Ores of nickel are mined in over 23 countries and are smelted or refined in 25 countries. Most important are Russia, Canada, New Caledonia, Australia, Indonesia, Cuba, China, South Africa, Dominican Republic, Botswana, Columbia, Greece and Brazil. Important nickel refineries also operate in Norway, Finland, France, Japan and the United Kingdom. Primary nickel is produced and used in the form of ferro-nickel, nickel oxides and other chemicals, and as more or less pure nickel metal. Nickel is also readily recycled from many of its applications, and large tonnages of secondary or "scrap" nickel are used to supplement newly mined metal.
Only about 1.4 million tonnes of new or primary nickel are produced and used annually in the world, compared with over 10 million tonnes of copper and nearly 800 million tonnes of steel.
Mining, Smelting and Refining of Nickel
There are many different nickel ores and many different ways to extract the nickel and other metals from those ores An overview of nickel refining is contained in the Nickel Life Cycle Assessment (2000) prepared for the Nickel Institute by PricewaterhouseCoopers/Ecobilan:
Further information can be obtained from the list of some of the world's major producers of nickel (which are also members of the Nickel Institute), here.