How Much Nickel Is Left In The World, Will We Run Out, & What Happens If We Do?

In this guide, we discuss the world’s nickel resources and reserves.

We outline how much we might have left, if we might run out and when, what might happen if we do, and more.


Summary – The World’s Nickel Resources

Uses For Nickel Across Society, & Why It’s Important

One of the main uses for nickel across society is for alloys, particularly stainless steel

The use of nickel in batteries and electric vehicles is forecast by some reports to make up a significant portion of demand for nickel in the future

Other uses of nickel are listed in the guide below


How Much Nickel Is Left In The World? – Resources, & Reserves

Total nickel resources are estimated to be higher than total reserves at this point in time, with majority of it reported to be nickel deposits with a low nickel content, as opposed to being high grade nickel deposits

A reasonably large amount of nickel resources also available on the sea-floor, but these ocean resources are not economically feasible to extract at this point in time

Total global reserves of nickel are currently around 95 million tons or more


Countries With The Largest Nickel Reserves

Australia and Indonesia have the equal largest nickel reserves amongst all countries, both at 21 million metric tons


Total Nickel Production

Global total nickel production in 2021 was a reported 2.7 million tons


Countries That Produce The Most Nickel

Indonesia was the leading nickel producer in 2021


Total Nickel Demand

In 2020, total global nickel demand was around 2.45 million metric tons


Nickel Shortages

There’s been both nickel supply deficits/shortfalls, and also surpluses in the last few years

There’s different forecasts for when nickel shortages might happen in the future, which we outline in the guide below


Are We Running Out Of Nickel, & Will We Run Out In The Future?

It doesn’t appear as though reserves will run out in the short term future.

There’s varying reports on the availability and supply of nickel for the mid to longer term future – we outline these reports in the guide below.

Demand for EV-grade nickel and nickel in stainless steel, as well as recycling of nickel may play a significant role in future supplies of nickel.


When Will We Run Out Of Nickel? … How Many Years Worth Of Nickel Do We Have Left?

When or if we run out of nickel depends on a range of factors (which we list in the guide below), and there may not be a definitive answer to this question.

Studies and estimates range from the year 2040, to a few hundred years left, to 1000 years.

There’s also one report that indicates that the number of years of nickel remaining could be in the hundreds of thousands of years, however, it’s worth reading the third party report for more information on this estimate


What Happens If We Run Out Of Nickel?

As any resource starts to be depleted, factors like availability of that resource, as well as price and affordability can be impacted


Is Nickel A Renewable Resource?

Technically it isn’t.

There is a number of things that might be done to manage nickel resources in a more sustainable way though.


Managing Nickel Resources More Sustainably

In the guide below, we discuss different ways nickel might be managed more sustainably across society

In particular, we discuss recycling nickel, and substituting nickel with other minerals, metals and materials


Nickel Pig Iron & Nickel Matte Conversion

Converting nickel pig iron and using low grade nickel, as opposed to having to rely on high grade nickel, is another development that could help with meeting nickel demands and consumption in the future.


Uses For Nickel Across Society, & Why Nickel Is Important

Some of the main uses for nickel across society include but aren’t limited to:

– Metal alloys

Nickel can alloy with several metals, with chromium, iron, molybdenum and copper being a few examples

A common use of nickel as an alloy can be in stainless steel


From ‘Currently, global stainless steel production consumes 70% of the nickel mined’


– Plating

Nickel can be used to plate other materials, such as other metals, to provide corrosion resistance and also general protection


– Batteries

Such as nickel-metal hydride batteries (NiMH), and also nickel cadmium batteries (NiCd)

Nickel is also used in the lithium-ion battery cathodes used by EV manufacturers

[Lithium is used in electric car batteries alongside Graphite, Manganese, Nickel, Cobalt] (


– Other Uses

Other uses for nickel can include for wires in electronics (because pure nickel is a reliable conductor of electricity), and also in combination with copper to make coins


– Main uses for nickel globally

[As of 2019 …] about 69 percent of nickel [was] used to manufacture stainless steels, while 15 percent [was] used in other steel and nonferrous alloys, often for highly specialized industrial, aerospace and military applications. About 8 percent [was] used in plating … (


– Main uses for nickel used in the US 


In the United States, the leading uses for primary nickel are alloys and steels, electroplating, and other uses including catalysts and chemicals.

Stainless and alloy steel and nickel-containing alloys typically account for more than 85% of domestic consumption 


How Much Nickel Is Left In The World? – Resources, & Reserves

There is a significant amount of nickel resources left, and nickel resources are reported as higher than reserves. Of the available nickel deposits in the world, majority or it is reported as low grade/low nickel content as opposed to being high-grade nickel

There’s also a significant amount of nickel on the ocean floor, although deep sea mining and technology likely need to be developed before it can be accessed




Identified land-based resources averaging approximately 0.5% nickel or greater contain at least 300 million tons of nickel, with about 60% in laterites and 40% in sulfide deposits.

Extensive nickel resources also are found in manganese crusts and nodules on the ocean floor.


[In total there might be 600 million tons of nickel available] on land and under the sea [and …] we’ve only used 60 million tons [up until 2019] (


From [Recent estimates indicate there might be 290 million tons of nickel contained in deep-sea floor deposits, however, deep sea mining is still in i’ts infancy and technology and methods still need to be developed to access this nickel]


Countries With The Most Nickel Resources Australia, Indonesia, South Africa, Russia and Canada account for more than 50% of the global nickel resources



[Excluding New Caledonia, the 2022 USGS Mineral Commodities Summary Report indicates that the latest total world nickel reserves are >95,000,000 metric tons] (


High-Grade vs Low-Grade Nickel Deposits, & Nickel Content In Deposits

Something that makes mention of is the grade of nickel deposits, and the nickel content in them (the % of the deposit that is nickel content)

Each deposit has a different grade and nickel content indicate that known deposits are about 40% higher-grade, and 60% low nickel content

They also indicate that the nickel resources discovered in the ocean would be difficult to extract at all, let alone in an economically feasible way


Countries With The Largest Nickel Reserves

Australia and Indonesia have the equal largest nickel reserves amongst all countries



[The 2022 USGS Mineral Commodities Summary Report indicates that Australia and Indonesia both have the equal largest nickel reserves in the world – both at 21,000,000 metric tons] 

[Brazil is in second at 16,000,000, and Russia third at 7,500,000]


Total Nickel Production

[The 2022 USGS Mineral Commodities Summary Report indicates that total nickel mine production in 2021 was 2,700,000 metric tons i.e. 2.7 million tons] (


Countries That Produce The Most Nickel

Indonesia was the leading nickel producer in 2021



[The 2022 USGS Mineral Commodities Summary Report indicates that the country that produced the most nickel from mine production in 2021 was Indonesia at 1,000,000 metric tons]

[The Phillipines was second at 370,000, and Russia was third at 250,000]


Total Nickel Demand & Consumption

In 2020, the global demand for nickel amounted to … 2.45 million metric tons [and estimates for demand in 2021 and 2022 were 2.85 million and 3.18 million metric tons respectively] (


Nickel Shortages – Have There Been Any, Will There Be Any, & What Are Some Reasons For Shortages?

Nickel has had both supply shortfalls and surpluses in recent years according to various reports.

However, some forecasts indicate there could be shortages in the future.

Some reports indicate that shortages could start from 2025, whilst others indicate shortages could be country specific, and could start occurring between 2030 and 2040


(*A note we make about the data provided in this section, and the sections below, is that it’s based on IEA data, and they indicate that this data may be questionable in some ways – so, it might not be taken as definitive data)


Have There Been Shortages Recently?

In the first ten months of 2021, the nickel market had a supply shortfall of 165500 tons, compared with a surplus of 88500 tons in the same period [the year before] ( indicates that [The nickel market is quite well balanced between supply and demand in 2022 after being in a] big deficit [in 2021, which was caused by increased demand] indicates that [In 2021 there was a supply shortfall of about 100,000 tonnes when comparing demand of 2.85 million tonnes to production of 2.75 million tonnes … and, there’s an undersupply of high of high-grade nickel in 2022]


Will There Be Forecasted Shortages In The Future? indicates that [there could be shortages starting 2030, and by 2040] there [could be] a shortage of 4.2 million tonnes of nickel per year

Some of this depends on production from countries like Australia and Brazil too though indicates that [there could be] close to balanced [nickel] markets in both 2023 and 2024, then followed by the beginning of open-ended large deficits from 2025 …


Are We Running Out Of Nickel, & Will We Run Out Of Nickel In The Future?

In the short term, it doesn’t appear as though we will run out of nickel.

In terms of the future, one report indicates that nickel availability will be good in the future.

Other reports indicate that over the next few decades, there’s the possibility we could find it a challenge to meet demand if consumption of nickel continues to rise – especially for both EV-grade nickel and nickel for stainless steel.

Recyclability of nickel may play a significant role in the future.


Current Supply & Demand indicates that [The nickel market is quite well balanced between supply and demand in 2022]


Forecasts For Future Supply & Demand

– Optimistic Forecasts indicates that ‘… known resource and reserves coupled with excellent recyclability will mean that nickel is available [in the future]


– Pessimistic Forecasts indicates that:

[… projected demand associated with EV batteries alone for 2030 equals total global demand for 2021, without taking nickel for stainless steel production into account] 

[Recycling alone won’t help meet this projected demand]

[There could be an annual nickel deficit of 560,000 tonnes from 2026 onwards if EV-grade nickel continues to see higher demand]

[Total demand by 2040 could be 6.2 million tonnes of nickel per year] indicates that:

[… by 2030, the world could need 1.3 million tons of nickel for electric vehicle batteries alone … and this is 1 million tons higher than in 2021]

[The concern with this is that only] 700,000 to 750,000 tons of nickel comes from [primary nickel and is supplied to the battery market,] and that number hasn’t moved for two decades

[What also has to be added to this additional 1 million tons of required nickel for batteries is] another 800,000 to 900,000 tonnes for [stainless steel and other applications]

[Overall, the nickel market could go from] 2.6 million tonnes in 2020 [to] 4.5 million tonnes … in 2030 …


Why We May Not Run Out Of Some Mined Resources

In this guide, we outline several reasons why we may not run out of some mined resources

Some information may be applicable to nickel in some ways


When Will Nickel Run Out? … How Many Years Of Nickel Are Left?

There’s a range of estimates for when we might run out of primary nickel.

Some indicate that it could be as early as 2040, some estimate the year 2130, and one study indicates it might be possible supplies last another 1000 years (under the best circumstances).

Factors that may play a significant role in when or if we run out of nickel might include:

– How much of the available nickel resources in the ground or in the ocean can be extracted in an economic way (where they are still affordable to consumers)

– Future demand for nickel (especially high-grade nickel) in electric cars, and also in stainless steel. China in particular may play a significant role if their EV sales are far higher than other countries

– Recyclability of nickel indicates that different countries could run out of nickel between 2030 to 2039 – they identify individual countries, and also the year they each could run out of nickel.

They include an estimate that known nickel deposits will be exhausted by as early as 2040

They summarise that the faster we transition to net zero activities in society, such as electric vehicles, the faster nickel might run out



[One model ] finds a peak in [nickel] ore removed from the ground in 2050. By 2130, the world will essentially run out of primary nickel supply using reasonable extraction methods 

[Another model suggests stainless steel is the primary driver of nickel demand in the future, along with growth in nickel demand for EV batteries, and] supply meets demand until 2024, [where] supply move towards a deficit [from there]


We are sometimes told nickel and cobalt resources will run out within the next half century based on current production rates and consumption rates.

But, Tim Worstall presents a different estimate:

‘[We have about] 800,000 years of nickel left (assuming no recycling) and 34 million of cobalt.’

You can read more about Tim’s views and information on mineral supplies in the resource in the resources list also provides an alternate opinion to when the supply of nickel could run out:

[The nickel industry have shown to be] flexible and innovative in the past in response to demand …

[Recycling of nickel-containing materials in particular] could extend the supply of nickel for centuries has an interesting study which considers three supply timeline arcs for both copper and nickel – 200, 500 and 1000 years

What they note is that, sustainable production rates of each metal for a ‘guaranteed, sufficient and affordable supply to the entire world population’ depends significantly on what the actual available resources of each metal are (i.e. available deposits), and also what end of life recycling rates are

High available resources and a high end-of-life recycling rate pushes the timeline arcs further towards 1000 years

They do note though that availability of these resources in the future for an affordable price is an uncertainty


What Happens If We Run Out Of Nickel?

Running out of any resource may impact things such as:

– The availability of that resource for the key things we use it for across society.

Specifically for nickel, the use of nickel in applications like stainless steel, and also in electric vehicles might be affected significantly


– The price of that resource as it becomes more scarce, and consequently, the affordability of the things we use that resource for 

The price of resources increasing as reserves are depleted is something we mentioned in our guide about why we may not run out of mined resources anytime soon.


Something noted by about increasing annual primary production of metals like copper and nickel is:

‘Copper and nickel may become so expensive for future generations that the services provided by them, will be hardly attainable for poor nations and poor people.’

[It is assumed this lack of affordability is due to reserves being depleted year on year, and economically extractable nickel becoming more scarce]


Is Nickel A Renewable Resource?

Nickel is technically a non-renewable resource.

Nickel is finite, and it takes far longer to form in nature than the rate it is consumed at across society.

Having said that, there might be ways to manage the nickel we’ve already extracted more sustainably, so that nickel’s non renewable status becomes less of an issue in some ways.


Managing Nickel Resources More Sustainably

There might be a range of ways to manage nickel more sustainably, including but not limited to:

– Reducing consumption and demand for nickel, or using it more efficiently

– Re-using nickel

– Recycling nickel

– Substituting nickel where possible


These options and others might place less of a burden on extracting new nickel in the future.

Having said that, these option might only help partially with conserving nickel resources or helping match supply with demand.

For example, indicates that recycling nickel alone cannot and will not help meet projected future nickel demand (there may need to be a broader strategy to manage nickel supply and demand). on the other hand indicates that recycling nickel-containing materials might play a significant role in extending the supply of nickel for centuries from now.


Nickel Recycling

Nickel is currently recycled in stainless steel at reasonably high rates, and has made nickel recycling from stainless steel somewhat circular in the past.

However, recycling nickel in EV batteries and uses such as nickel pig iron in the future present some challenges and complexities.

How well nickel can be recycled in some of these newer uses may play a role in adequate supplies of nickel in the future.


The 2022 USGS Mineral Commodities Summary Report notes how alloyed nickel can be melted, and used to produce new alloys. They also note that the U.S. Department of Energy’s ReCell Center is continuing to investigate effective ways tot recover raw material like nickel from recycled batteries.


In 2021, recycled nickel in all forms accounted for approximately 52% of apparent consumption (



Stainless steel can be recycled for the most part, which drives nickel consumption down and this probably helps save several million tonnes per year

[However, there may not be enough EV batteries containing nickel until around 2030 to recycle them economically in some countries]



… about 68 percent of all nickel is recycled, a number that has increased from about 63 percent since 2000 [citing the Nickel Institute]

[However, although recycling nickel in stainless steel has been done in a somewhat closed loop manner in the past, nickel in new products like EV batteries could be much more challenging in the future]

Nickel in EV batteries is recycled at a rate of below 5 percent [as of 2019]

[Additionally, if more nickel pig iron is used in the future in places like China because it’s a cheaper and lower grade alternative to primary nickel for applications like stainless steel, this also makes recycling nickel more challenging]


The guide listed goes further into how nickel recycling rates might be increased in the future.


Nickel Substitutes

The 2022 USGS Mineral Commodities Summary Report lists several substitutes for nickel across different applications

The guide also goes further into a range of potential substitutes for nickel across a range of applications


Converting Nickel Matte To High-Grade Nickel

Another option to increase the amount of available nickel supplies is to convert nickel matte.

This process can involve matte leaching where nickel matte is converted to a refined nickel product ( discusses this process in more detail)

But, this process is more complex and expensive than regular processes for producing nickel. indicates it’s economically unsustainable, and has negative environmental effects to consider.




1. (accessing the USGS ‘Mineral Commodities Summary Report’)







8. M.L.C.M. Henckens, E. Worrell, Reviewing the availability of copper and nickel for future generations. The balance between production growth, sustainability and recycling rates, Journal of Cleaner Production, Volume 264, 2020, 121460, ISSN 0959-6526, (Available at





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