Nickel is one of the most sought after metals in the industrial world for its use in magnets, coins, rechargeable batteries, and most importantly, stainless steel. In fact, roughly two-thirds of global nickel production goes to make stainless steel, and China produces and consumes the majority. But China has a secret that has helped it keep costs of producing stainless steel incredibly low, allowing the country to ramp up production and dominate the global market in recent years. What is this secret you ask? Nickel pig iron.
Nickel pig iron was developed in China specifically for stainless steel production. It is made from low-grade nickellaterite ores, which make up the majority of nickel resources in the world (about two-thirds), but until recently have been much more difficult to process than the more commonly mined nickel sulfide.