NICKEL MINING IN THE WORLD AND TURKEY

Nickel as an element

Nickel, with its silver color and metallic luster, is a transition element that takes place on the 4th period and 8B group of periodical table. In terms of weight it is the fifth most occurring element on the earth. Nickel has an atomic number of 28 and its specific gravity is 8.91. Its melting point is 1453°C and boiling point is 2731°C (Tubitak, 2010).

Areas of use of nickel

Including stainless steel, it is mostly used in production of corrosion-resistive alloys. Other than this, it is used in buildings, corrosion resistive materials that are used in elevators, energy saving radiators, automobiles, planes and ship industry, gas turbines of planes and jet engines, electronic products, computers and data storage devices like CDs and DVDs, production of nickel cadmium batteries and armors, batteries and fuel cells, mobile phone batteries, water treatment, preparation of food, production of medical tools and kitchen tools, solidification of liquid oils and soaps, armatures, in ceramics as binding material between enamel and iron, production of coins, mass transportation vehicles, armored vehicles, production of ammunition, sea water transportation pipes, production of stainless, durable and maintenance-free materials that help to make our life easier in subway stations, terminals and airports (Tubitak, 2010, Caldag Nikel Mine, 2009).

  

Another field that nickel is inevitable for human life is the medical sector. Together with its wide use in the production of medical tools, stents, which are made of nickel and titanium, are used for the treatment of cardiovascular diseases and lives of millions of people have been saved every year. Alloys named as ‘intelligent metals’, which can turn back to their original shape even after they are deformed are also owing this property to nickel. In medical imaging devices nickel is used as a metal; at the same time; another important field of use arises in these types of devices. A special type of ink is used to protect these devices from electromagnetic waves coming from outside. In this way, it is provided that these devices can work precisely without being affected from other electronic devices.

  

Nickel is also an indispensable metal for sustainable development and protecting the environment. In water treatment facilities nickel has a vital importance. In environment friendly wind and solar energy plants, in the filtering of harmful gases of industrial plants wide use of nickel can be observed. Also, nickel can be observed to preserve its being vitally important in high technology energy solutions like fuel cells, ethanol fuels and nuclear energy.

 

 

Together with being the indispensible material of the industry for more than 100 years, use of nickel is growing as the time passes. For the fuel cells that provide energy for engines working with electricity without polluting the environment, nickel is a very important element.

 

Formation of nickel

Generally, there are two types of occurrences of nickel ore that are magmatic sulphides and laterites. Magmatic sulphide type ore bodies are generally extracted by underground mining while laterites are being extracted by surface mining. Nickel sulphide- arsenic deposits take place inside the hydrothermal veins that exists together with basic type rocks.  These types of deposits generally have a nickel content of 1% - 3%. These types of large reserves occur in Canada, South Africa, Russia, Finland, and Australia.

  

On the other side, laterites are formed by the effect of warm and rainy weather on rocks that are rich in iron and magnesium. During this formation nickel is exposed to a dissolution and precipitation process continuously for long years, in another saying it became concentrated by a natural decomposition process.

  

Sulphide nickel deposits

Sulphide nickel deposits are the primary nickel deposits that are formed in magmatic conditions. These types of deposits take place inside the ultrabasic and basic rocks. Ultrabasic and basic rocks are majorly rich in iron and in minor amounts copper, nickel, platinum group metals also exist. During the time the magma cools, these metals combine with sulphur and form sulphide drops. These sulphide drops that were enriched inside the magma become separated from silicates by liquation process (not mixing in the liquid form) and precipitate. By this way, nickel, copper and platinoid metals of sulphide minerals forms thin layers of beds (Ağaçayak, 2008). 

Lateritic nickel deposits

Lateritic deposits form as a result of atmospheric or hydrospheric effects, which mean the effects coming from the outside. Fe, Ni, Co, Al, Mn deposits are residual deposits. Also, asbestos, magnesite, clayey brick, terra rossa and sepiolite deposits are residual. These types of deposits are formed by decomposition and transportation of unbeneficial minerals from the accumulation by outside effects. By this way beneficial minerals are left on the accumulation. There are three factors that lead to formation of these types of deposits. These are weather, topography and content of the rock that was decomposed.

  

Laterites form at the top layers when ferromagnesians and aluminosilicates decompose. Types of laterites according to the type of decomposing rocks are;

 

a.       Laterites with iron

b.      Laterites with aluminum 

Laterites that form on the top of ultramafics with poor aluminum content shows both iron and nickel concentration. In areas where precipitation is high ultramafics decompose physically and chemically. As a result of this elements like Mg and Si leaves the zone and the left part shows high concentrations of Fe, Ni and Co. Later, iron precipitates as in the form of hydroxide. Iron containing formations begin to show up on the top of ultramafics. It distributes inside the iron containing laterites and forms large lateritic nickel deposits. Transported nickel forms sedimentary nickel deposits in arid zones. Also, a nickel concentration of 1-2% to 25-30% can be observed in these kinds of deposits (Boyalı, 1984).

Nickel deposits and reserves in the World

Considering reserves and demand, large lateritic nickel deposits exist in Australia, Russia, Cuba, New Caledonia, Indonesia, Philippines, Brazil and Spain. In terms of span of use China, Japan and USA arises.

 

  

According to the researchers conducted in the world the amount of nickel reserves that are greater than 1% is predicted to be 140 million tonnes. 84 million tonnes of these resources are lateritic and 56 million tonnes are of sulphide type. 60% of the nickel that is produced in all over the world has being used in production of stainless steel.

 

  

Since 1900, nickel mining has being done and the produced nickel has being processed in refineries in order to obtain the final product in developed countries like France, Great Britain, USA, Canada, Japan and Finland.

  

Nickel is a metal that is bought from or sold in international stocks and its price is determined according to the supply-demand balance of the world. Examining the price of nickel starting from 1900s until today, price fluctuations and its historical record of price on May 2007, which is 50,000 $/tonne, are noticeable. However, on the price list of the last hundred year that is modified according to the inflation, it is observed to be at an average of 12,000 $/tonne. On October 2011, selling price of one tonne of nickel is between 19.000-20,000 $.

 

 

Nickel was first invented in 1751 in the Swedish town of Cronstedt and after the XIX. Century it is used in the production of copper – nickel alloy coins. The first metallurgical facility was established in 1824 in Austria by Gersdorff. Nickel’s taking a part in the list of other metals by the developing industry has started in 1865 by the beginning of operation in New Caledonia’s nickel deposits and it has become the most used metal after iron (Special Commission Report on Mining, SPO, 2001), 

 

  

Development of mining in Turkey, nickel deposits and reserves

 

Mining in Anatolia has started thousands of years ago; around B.C.7000 pure copper was used. Various mines had been operated, concentration facilities had been established and coins had been produced. It is a known fact that mining had lead to developing civilizations in Anatolia. Especially, mining in Anatolia was developed during the time of Romans; great advances in led, copper, iron, gold, silver and marble production can be observed. Monuments made of marble are the best proof of the situation (Mining Sector Parliamentary Research Commission Report on 2010). 

 

During the times of Ottoman Empire, the purpose of mining activities were mostly providing weapon and black powder requirement and coining money. According to the Paris Treaty that was signed in 1862, which is in the last era of the Ottoman Empire, Anatolian mines were opened to foreign companies. As France taking the lead, Great Britain, Germany, Italy and Russia have invested noticeable amounts of money and produced great amounts of ore. Traces of this period can still be observed in most parts of the country.

  

Foundations of mining in Republic Era have been built up in 1923 during İzmir Economical Congress. Following adoption of liberal economy in this era, important developments in mining have taken place; General Directorate of Mineral Research and Exploration (its old name is Maadin ve Sanayi Mekteb-i Alisi, Sanayi Maadin Bankası) was established and employed to deal with education, finance, exploration and production issues.

  

Complicated geological and tectonic structure of our country allows various mineral reserves to take part on this land. Today, around 90 types of ores were produced around the world; in Turkey 60 of them are being actively produced. According to General Directorate of Mineral Research and Exploration (MTA), Turkey is the 28th country in terms of production numbers. Considering the mineral variety, Turkey is the 10th country.

  

In terms of value of reserves of Turkey, nickel is classified in ‘normal – poor’ group. However, it must not be forgotten that evaluations and classifications about the value of a reserve always have a subjective character. In addition, information about reserves is debatable most of the times. Knowing these, it will be more realistic to consider the reserve issues, suspiciously (SPO, 2007).

  

In the environment nickel exists together with iron and in the form of sulphides, arsenides, and silicates (with lateritic roots). Considering the bedding type and geological conditions, Turkey is very favorable to the existence of nickel.

  

In our country, both laterite and sulphide type of nickel depositing are observed. The most important lateritic nickel deposits of Turkey are Manisa-Turgutlu Çaldağ, Manisa-Gördes, Uşak-Banaz, Eskişehir-Mihalıççık-Yunusemre and sulphide type deposits are Bitlis-Pancarlı, Bursa-Orhaneli-Yapköydere, Sivas-Divriği-Gümüş. Also, there are Bolu-Mudurnu-Akçalan and Hatay-Payas-Dörtyol deposits (Special Com. Report on Mining, SPO, 2001).

  

 

Including Fe-Ni Mining Ltd. Nickel mining is done by a couple of companies in Turkey. However, 100% pure nickel production from tout-venant ore by concentration and refinement cannot be done but it is a known fact that concentration facilities are in progress of construction and some of them have already started to work. Existingly, nickel demand is satisfied by importation. Nickel supplier industry is so negligibly small. However, in European Union 1.5 million people works in the nickel industry directly or indirectly. Annually, Turkey’s nickel consumption is around 2000 tonnes. Proven reserves of nickel in Turkey are 40 million tonnes. 33 million tonnes of this is in Manisa-Çaldağ. The amount of nickel metal inside this reserve is around 400,000 tonnes. This amount stands for the 6% of all reserves of the world.

  

According to the notification ‘Mining Organizations and Institutions with Policies that was prepared by Turkish Ministry of Energy and Natural Resources and published in their website on 20 May 2009, information about mission, authority and responsibility of institutions like General Directorate of Mining Affairs (MİGEM), General Directorate of Mineral Research and Exploration (MTA), ETİ Mine Works General Management, Turkish Coal Enterprises (TKİ), Turkish Hard Coal Enterprises (TTK), National Boron Research Institute (BOREN) are given. Mining policies of the ministry are stated obviously on the 8th article (Ministry of Energy and Natural Resources, 2009).

 

 

Importance of mining for Turkey

 

 

In the report prepared by TMMOB Chamber of Mining Engineers of Turkey and published on March 2011 that is ‘Mining Sector and Policies Report’, importance of mining in our country was obviously declared. “Throughout the history, mining has always been a fundamental sector that gives shape to civilizations. Especially, in the last two centuries after the industrial revolution importance of iron and nickel on the development process of humanity is inevitable to deny. In the existing century, it is also impossible for humans to live in the lack of mining activities. Today, everything that is indispensible for our lives such as cars, houses, computers and telephones are produced using the materials that are extracted with the mining activities. Ores are resources that are formed in millions of years and cannot be grown when they are exploited. Thus, they must be produced according to a plan that is prepared for the sake of public, by taking the needs of the country into consideration and in an environmentally friendly way.

 

There are several reasons that mining sector in Turkey has not grown in desired levels. Lack of preparation of national development plans that take strategical foresight and human resources planning into consideration, economical and social policies those are in the guidance of international finance institutions, putting aside the concept of planning, especially, in the last thirty years, lack of an economy that is in balance with industrialization and increases in investment, lack of national science and technology policies to produce technology that is necessary for the industrialization, inefficiency in administrative structures, fraud and corruption are some of these reasons (Chamber of Mining Engineers of Turkey, 2011 ).

 

Mining, due to its nature, is the most difficult and risky job in the world that requires knowledge, experience and mastery.

 

 

Fe-Ni Mining Ltd Co is a company that obeys national and international regulations, uses engineering science and technology and internationally accepted standards in the stage of exploration and production of mineral resources. It takes place in Eskişehir-Mihalıççık-Yunus Emre District and sells the iron and nickel ores that it extracted from its surface mine to domestic or foreign companies. Our purposes are working according to the regulations, informing the public and serving to our country. 

 

This report was prepared by Bekir METİN (Fe-Ni Mining Ltd.) by using the resources that are declared below and translated to English by Ahmet Güneş YARDIMCI. (20 October 2011, Ankara) 

 

 

References:

1- Ağaçayak, T. (2008).Beneficiation of Karacam (Eskisehir) Lateritic Nickel Ore by Physical and Chemical Methods”, Ph.D Thesis, Department of Mining Engineering, Universty of Konya Selcuk 

 

2- Boyalı, İ. (1984). Karaçam, Yunus Emre, Mihalıççık, Sivrihisar, Eskişehir Yöresi  “Prospecting Report on Nickel-Cobalt”, MTA 

 

3- Special Commission Report on Mining (2006), 9th Development Plan, State Planning of Organization (SPO)  

 

 

4- Special Commission Report on Mining (2001), 8th Development Plan, State Planning of Organization (SPO)

 

5- Ministry of Energy and Natural Resources. (May 20, 2009, Mining Organizations and Institutions with Policies, Retrieved August 19, 2011, from  web site: http://www.enerji.gov.tr 

 

6- Mining Sector Parliamentary Research Commission Report on 2010, the Turkish Grand National Assembly (TBMM) 

 

7- TMMOB, Chamber of Mining Engineers of Turkey (2011), Mining Sector and Policies Report 8- Tubitak  and Çaldağ Nikel Mine. (2009).

 

9- Tubitak. (2010), from TUBİTAK Web site: http://www.tubitak.gov.tr, Retrieved September 15, 2011,