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Vale returns to US market

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Vale SA is back. After enduring a one-year strike at its Sudbury and Port Colborne, Ontario, operations, the Brazilian company has returned in force to the American market, easing supply pressures and leading to a severe drop in premiums. The company had total estimated output of 144,000 tonnes of nickel in 2010, ranking it third among world producers.

Dudinka, Russia-based MMC Norilsk Nickel still heads the list, producing 299,500 tonnes in 2010, up 5.8 percent from 283,000 tonnes the previous year. It currently supplies about half of the nickel in the U.S. market, according to market participants.

China's Jinchuan Group Ltd. has been climbing the list by aggressively pursuing acquisitions. Even though China is a net importer of nickel, the company is selling into the U.S. market due to the higher premiums it can receive here and because the Chinese market largely takes nickel pig iron supplies.

Sherritt International Corp. is set to more than double its 16,700-tonne output this year as it ramps up production at its Ambatovy Mine in Madagascar.

Top Nickel Producers
(in thousands of tonnes)
MMC Norilsk Nickel 299.50
BHP Billiton Ltd. 179.30
Vale SA 144.00
Jinchuan Group Ltd. 130.1
Xstrata Plc 91.8
Sumitomo Metal Mining Co. Ltd. 56
Eramet Corp. 53.4
Cubaniquel 44.7
Anglo American Plc 39.5
Pacific Metals Co. 31.5
Minara Resources Ltd. 30.5
Sherritt International Corp. 16.7

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