why is mining nickel efficiently difficult and valuable?



Tesla just offered a giant contract to whoever can efficiently mine nickel- why is this process so difficult and inefficient?

In: Engineering

Basically most of the large undeveloped nickel deposits are of a type of ore that is challenging to work with. It’s not so much that it’s hard to mine the ore itself, but difficult to separate the nickel. There several ways to do it, but none are great – a common one requires significant amounts of heat, pressure, and acid, which isn’t hard to do, but can get really expensive from an energy and maintenance perspective. There are other methods which don’t require the high heat and pressure, but only work on specific kinds of geology.

Some underground Nickel deposits are difficult to work with, and in many parts of the world there are environmental concerns due to the use of coal fired power plants, and residues like acids used in nickle mining.

Canadian nickel has the advantage that the contaminants in the ore include precious metals like Gold. The Gold alone pays for the entire operation and the nickle is 100% profit.

The downside is the refineries for nickle are nowhere near the mines (Northern Quebec for example) so the ore has to be shipped by ocean to refineries.

That and the cost of labor in Canada is a lot higher than places like Brazil.