Nickel (Ni) is a hard, silver-white metal with a high melting point which is used in alloys, principally steel, to which it imparts toughness, strength, lightness, anti-corrosion, and electrical and thermal properties. Over 3000 nickel alloys have been identified. Special alloys with over 50% Ni have been developed for high temperature strength in aircraft jet engines. World mine production in 1998 was 1.14 Mt, of which about two-thirds was used in the production of stainless steel.
There are two kinds of commercial nickel deposits: residual concentrations of nickeliferous laterite associated with basic or ultrabasic igneous rocks, and nickel sulphide ores formed by replacement or magmatic injection. About 60% of nickel resources occur as laterite and 40% as sulphides. The mineralogy of nickel sulphide deposits comprises pyrrhotite (Fe1-xS), pentlandite (FeNi)9S8, chalcopyrite (CuFeS2), and magnetite (Fe3O4), with pentlandite being the major commercial primary nickel mineral.
In 2013 world production of nickel metal was 2.5 Mtonne, with Indonesia, Phiippines, Russia, Canada and Australia the dominant producers. Australia's production was 240,000 tonne nickel metal mainly from sulphide and laterite deposts in Western Australia.
Information about nickel mines and deposits is available from the South Australian Resources Information Geoserver (SARIG)
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South Australian deposits
Mesoproterozoic crystalline basement of the Musgrave Block in the far northwest of the State contains layered basic and ultrabasic intrusions of the Giles Complex. No significant nickel sulphide deposits have been identified, but secondary deposits of nickel ochre and chrysoprase have developed on deeply weathered olivine-rich ultrabasic rocks in the Claude Hills and Tomkinson Ranges.
Nickel occurs in micro-nodules associated with manganese and cobalt.
The region has considerable potential for both primary sulphide, and secondary oxide nickel deposits. Significant sulphide resources have been identified in the Western Australian portion of the Musgrave Block including the world class Nebo-Babel deposit of 446 Mt @ 0.33%Ni and 0.35% Cu, and the Wingellina lateritic nickel deposit of 187 Mt @ 1% Ni, and 0.08% Co. In South Australia there is the Claude Hills lateritic nickel with a resource of 31 Mt @ 0.81% Ni and 0.07% Co.
The Mulgathing Complex within the Gawler Craton contains greenstone belts of basalt, komatiite and differentiated ultramafic sills which are considered prospective for nickel. No significant nickel deposits have yet been discovered, but anomalous nickel values have been reported from Blackfellow Hill, Lake Harris, and Aristarchus Rise.
A basic to ultrabasic suite of diorite to peridotite crops out over an area of 0.7 km2 10 km west of Tumby Bay, and contains nickel-bearing pentlandite, olivine and serpentine.
Flint, D.J. and Abeysinghe, P.B., 1998. Mineral exploration and development in Western Australia in 1996–97. Geological Survey of Western Australia, Department of Minerals and Energy, Perth.
Other articles of interest including exploration and mining company reports can be accessed via the DMITRE Georeference databases in SARIG.