China’s top nickel producer to ramp up ahead of EV boom

China’s leading supplier of nickel Jinchuan Group has targeted a 40% jump in output this year as it looks to join an elite band of miners that are preparing to meet growing demand in the electric vehicle (EV) market.

Jinchuan’s vice general manager of its marketing unit Simon Bao said the firm aims to raise production of nickel sulphate to 70,000 metric tonnes from 50,000 tonnes in 2017.

“While physical demand hasn’t picked up too significantly yet, it may surge in about two years,” said Bao in an interview in Shanghai. The company is able to raise sulphate production without any technical barriers, he added.

Nickel is a crucial component in lithium-ion batteries used in EVs.

China is the world’s largest automotive market, with manufacturers hoping that EVs sales can hit one million in 2018, after rising to 700,000 last year.

Jinchuan’s efforts to meet a slowly bubbling demand for energy metals mirror those of several mining majors, such as BHP and Rio Tinto. The former has begun developing a nickel sulphate plant in Western Australia and the latter is building a Serbian lithium project.

Meanwhile, Glencore aims to double its cobalt production over the next two years.