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DOING SOME DIGGING All Things Nickel

I have nickel on the brain today. Specifically, I challenge our readers to recall in which year nickel was first pr...


I have nickel on the brain today. Specifically, I challenge our readers to recall in which year nickel was first produced in Canada. Does anyone remember in what year nickel output peaked and how much? Does the production of cobalt parallel that of nickel? These and answers to other nickel trivia shall be revealed for our readers.

Canadian nickel history began in 1889 when a total of 337 tonnes of recoverable nickel in concentrate from ore was recorded. Production came entirely from Ontario, home of international market leader INCO LTD. Inco was also the first company to ship nickel from another province, when in 1954 its Thompson development became operational in northern Manitoba.

Figures reveal that nickel was also produced in the British Columbia (1937 and 1958-74), Northwest Territories (1957-62), Quebec (1962-73 and 1998-2003), Saskatchewan (1966-69), and Yukon (1973-74).

Another way to look at the numbers reveals that Ontario produced virtually 100% of Canadian nickel in concentrates between 1889 and 1952. Over the entire history of production from the end of the 19th Century, 81% of this country’s nickel output originated in Ontario. In the No.2 spot, Manitoba is far back with 18%.

Through the first 110 years of production, 12.39 million tonnes of nickel has been mined in Canada. The rate peaked in 1970 at 277,500 tonnes.

And, no, cobalt production does not parallel nickel output. The first reported recoverable cobalt shipped from Canadian mines was 15 tonnes in 1904. Not surprisingly, they came from Ontario mines. Manitoba, Quebec, British Columbia and Northwest Territories have produced cobalt as well. Production reached its peak in 1987 at 2,500 tonnes.

Not that I have been around to note Canada’s nickel history first-hand since its birth, but I do have a good source of data: the federal government. I recently renewed my acquaintance with Bill McCutcheon, the nickel specialist at NATURAL RESOURCES CANADA. He offered to add my address to his e-mailing list for information on all Things Nickel. He has been sending information at a great clip, including the nickel and cobalt production statistics quoted above. Bill sends links to web sites all over the world. Current financial reports, technical reports on proposed developments, government publications more information than I can absorb in one sitting.

To hone your nickel expertise with Bill’s excellent help, contact him at 613-992-5480 or bmccutch@nrcan.gc.ca.

If there are any history buffs among our readers, they might want to check out the chronology available at www.nrcan.gc.ca/mms/pdf/chrono_e.pdf. I found dozens of mine names I recognized and many historic references.


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