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Nickel

What it is
The silvery, shiny, slightly yellowish metal is one of the ferromagnetic metals. Nickel has a melting point of 1,455°C and a boiling point of 2,730°C. Its specific weight is 8.908 g/cm³. Pure nickel is highly corrosion resistant, forgeable and deformable. Its outstanding chemical properties include its catalytic behavior, characterized by a high hydrogen absorption capacity. Moreover, nickel can be easily alloyed with iron, copper, cobalt and some other high-melting metals.

Where it is found
Although there are numerous nickel minerals, only few are important as economically worthwhile commodity. In this context pentlandite and garnierite have to be mentioned. As far as the deposits are concerned, we differentiate between magmatic (sulphide) ores (Canada, Russia, Australia) and lateritic (oxidic) weathering ores (New Caledonia, Indonesia, Cuba). Oxidic ores are more frequent than sulphide ores, but the latter ones are mined in larger quantities because of the low energy requirements of processing and smelting sulphide ores. Beyond that, they contain valuable by-products (Cu, Co, Pt metals).

Russia and Canada have a leading position among the ore mining countries. Mining operations are also going on in the PR of China, the Dominican Republic and South Africa.

What it is used for
By far the most important field of application of nickel is the stainless steel industry which consumes more than half of all the nickel used. Nickel is also used for corrosion protection of various materials by nickel-plating. In the chemical industry, e.g., nickel is important as a material for catalysts in petroleum processing. Also in the automotive industry it is increasingly being used in hybrid technology.

How it is traded
We must distinguish between two important grades – class I, i.e. primary nickel with 99.0 – 99.9 % Ni, and class II which, e.g., includes ferronickel with 20 – 60 % Ni and nickel oxide.

The most common form of electrolytic nickel (at least 99.8 % Ni) are cut cathodes.

 
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