The journey of nickel

posted: 21/02/2022

Nickel is a part of our everyday lives, and a metal that we will increasingly need for a sustainable future. It is all around us, 从葡萄京官方网站厨房里使用的器具,到连接葡萄京官方网站城市的桥梁,再到有助于实现低碳未来的电动汽车电池. Yet many people do not even notice its presence because it is a ‘hidden’ metal. Let us explore the extraordinary journey of nickel.

镍(Ni)是一种天然存在的元素,构成了地核的很大一部分. Tectonic movements allow magma to rise to the surface, depositing nickel in igneous rock formations within its crust. It is also commonly found in meteorites, with ancient impact craters often providing nickel deposits on Earth.

At Glencore’s Integrated Nickel Operations (INO) across Canada and Norway, 镍的旅程是从魁北克北部永久冻土深处开始的, through Sudbury, Ontario and on to Kristiansand in Norway, and from there to customers all over the world. 

But nickel’s journey is also symbolic; from a metal traditionally used to manufacture stainless steel, 到现在被认为是向低碳经济转型的关键. And through its virtually endless recyclability, it is also driving the transformation to a truly circular economy.

Glencore’s Raglan Mine, an operation with four underground mines and concentrator, is situated in Quebec’s Nunavik region – 80km south of the Arctic Ocean.

The mining complex, many of whose employees are from the local Inuit communities, is one of the most isolated in Canada, 受北极环境的挑战,离网无法使用公共设施或服务. For its team of nearly 1,300 to operate, it had to build the equivalent of a small municipality with all the essential infrastructure required; lodging for employees, a water treatment plant, a power generating station and an airfield.

For Trevor Blair, Senior Supervisor, Strategic Planning & Business Development at Raglan Mine, 偏远的地理位置是镍矿开采过程中最具挑战性的因素之一.

我认为首先打动人们的是拉格兰绝对荒凉的本性. There's nothing around, it's above the tree line, we are in permafrost, and the rocks below to a depth of around 450 meters are frozen all the time.

Trevor Blair - Senior Supervisor, Strategic Planning & Business Development at Raglan Mine

To mine nickel, Raglan的团队从地面入口开始,使用斜坡进入地下,到达矿体所在的位置. 它被从岩石中钻出,然后用卡车运到地表,在那里它被送入破碎机,破碎成所需的尺寸,然后被送入浓缩器, where the rock is crushed into even smaller pieces. 

Afterwards, the crushed ore undergoes a flotation process, 一种根据矿石表面是否被排斥来分离和浓缩矿石的方法, or attracted to, water. 这是从矿石(含镍的天然岩石或沉淀物)中提取镍等矿物最广泛使用的方法之一. 在浮选过程结束时,硫化镍可以被撇除并干燥.

现在,镍含量约为18%,精矿被运到位于矿山以北约100公里的欺骗湾. There it is loaded onto the Arvik I, a dedicated icebreaking bulk carrier ship, which transports it to the Port of Quebec. From there it is transported by rail to the smelter at Glencore’s Sudbury INO. 在冶炼过程中,从镍精矿中除去硫和其他杂质.

Sari Muinonen, Process Technology and Custom Feed Manager, has worked at the Sudbury smelter since 2010. 

We have a furnace that operates at about 1,380 degrees Celsius. The material gets dropped into the top, falls through and hits the bath and that's when the smelting process begins. 葡萄京官方网站生产的最终产品被称为哑光,它看起来像黑色的沙滩沙,现在含有大约60%的镍.

Sari Muinonen - Process Technology and Custom Feed Manager, Sudbury smelter

From Sudbury, 磨砂通过铁路运回魁北克港,在那里它再次被装载到另一艘船上, this time to be refined into high-grade metal at the Nikkelverk 位于挪威克里斯蒂安桑的炼油厂,距离它的旅程起点超过5500公里. 

精炼过程首先将原料磨成细粉,然后将其运送到氯浸出厂. 在这里,原料中的金属通过在盐酸中加入氯来分离. 然后,分离的流被送到不同的加工区域进行净化和精炼. 这些不同的区域处理气体,液体和固体材料,直到大约一周后,99.99% pure nickel can be harvested.

Glencore is a leading producer and marketer of nickel, with operations not just in Canada and Europe, but also in Australia and New Caledonia in the South Pacific. 2021年,葡萄京官方网站从自己的资产生产了102千吨铜,而葡萄京官方网站的营销业务销售了202千吨. We produce some of the world’s purest nickel, 葡萄京官方网站也是最大的含镍材料回收和加工商之一, including batteries.

Our marketing business deals in nickel metal as well as concentrates, 中间体和镍铁是葡萄京官方网站的客户广泛的工业消费者基础, in sectors such as automotive and power generation. 

镍主要用于制造不锈钢,因为它增加了钢的强度和耐腐蚀性. However, 使镍成为真正独特和可持续金属的另一个特点是它是完全可回收的:“你不能破坏镍. 你可以生产不同形式的镍,但最终你总能从产品中得到镍. It comes back into the economy and it’s circular,” explains Kapil Reddy Kunta, Nickel Derivatives Trader at Glencore.

无论是通过回收利用,还是通过在葡萄京官方网站帮助支持社区的地区采矿, the idea is always that we produce nickel in a sustainable, responsible fashion.

Kapil Reddy Kunta - Nickel Derivatives Trader

Other valuable properties include its ability to be disinfected, its resistance to corrosion, its electrical and magnetic properties, and its strength at both high and low temperatures. 它处理高温的能力意味着它在特种钢和高温合金中占有重要地位, used in jet engines for example, 而今天的个人电子产品依赖镍来连接芯片和处理器,并提供合适的功率. 

More than anything else though, 正因为镍在清洁能源和移动技术中的应用,它在葡萄京官方网站生活中的作用才会越来越大.

To provide wind power, for instance, 镍不仅仅是用于制造风力涡轮机的不锈钢合金中所需要的, but to increase the strength and toughness of low alloy steels. In fact, 为Raglan矿场提供风力的两台涡轮机,每台都使用了两吨铜. Similarly, 不锈钢被用来制造水力发电系统的涡轮机,因为“隐藏”在里面的镍具有抗腐蚀的特性.

或许与日常生活更直接相关的是,作为电动汽车电池的主要成分,镍的需求日益增加. 金属的作用是提供更高的能量密度,从而产生更大的存储容量. 在可预见的未来,含镍锂离子电池将成为电动汽车的动力, and many millions of such vehicles set to hit the roads in the coming decades, the demand for nickel is forecast to soar.

Across our business, 葡萄京官方网站正在优先投资镍等支持低碳转型的金属, and two of our key expansionary capital projects are testament to this. Through the Raglan Phase 2 programme we are developing two new ore zones, 确保该矿能够持续提供镍精矿.

The future of nickel is bright. I see it as an element of change not only to build emerging economies, assets and infrastructure, but also to be able to connect the world.

Trevor Blair - Senior Supervisor, Strategic Planning & Business Development at Raglan Mine

The ore zones will have a steady-state production capacity of 500,000 and 1,000,000 tonnes per annum, 葡萄京官方网站最近还完成了对Raglan浓缩器的升级,可以处理多达1个.5 Mtpa of ore.

Meanwhile, at Sudbury INO, the Onaping Depth deep mine project, which is located below the existing Craig Mine, will provide a significant new source of high-grade nickel ore beyond 2035.

Through these and future initiatives, Glencore will continue to be a part of the journey of nickel for decades to come.

Other video highlights

Introducing Raglan Mine, Canada

Introducing Raglan Mine, Canada
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Introducing Raglan Mine, Canada

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About the Raglan Education Fund
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About the Raglan Education Fund