Australia’s nickel sector has been encouraged to be more mindful of the emerging market challenges faced by the metal.

Addressing the Paydirt 2019 Australian Nickel Conference in Perth, the Nickel Institute’s Brisbane-based Director, Market Development, Richard Matheson, said Australia’s nickel industry currently lived in a very high opportunity environment for the metal.

“There is a real opportunity here to grow and defend market share both for existing applications and emerging new applications such as new-era electric vehicle batteries, energy storage and even food and water applications,” Mr Matheson said.

According to Mr Matheson, this opportunity is being driven by mega trends in population growth and the need for ‘more of everything’.

“Many parts of the world are urbanising quickly. Large-scale migrations of people are elevating demand for more housing, more energy, more food and more clean water – all of which has to be delivered in sustainable ways.

“The scope of nickel’s properties is excellent for assisting these needs, so the market for nickel can best be described as fantastic.”

The Nickel Institute executive, however, warned the sector that it faced headwinds in reaching its true potential.

“The threats to nickel are very clear,” Mr Matheson explained.

The environment in which specification occurs is evolving, and like all topics even social media plays a role.

“There are perceptions of high cost, a lack of knowledge about the metal even though it is used everywhere. This is particularly true for new young engineers coming through industry who are not aware of nickel’s potential.

“This is why the Institute is particularly focused on marketing and education in China, India and South East Asia so that it can change perceptions and elevate nickel in the head space of those designing and manufacturing new applications.

“Nickel also faces competition and substitution from other materials as well as barriers to entry from any number of quarters.

“Yet nickel is buoyant, its annual output has grown roughly between 5 per cent and 6 per cent per year over the past decade.”

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