Nickel is the fifth most abundant element on our planet. Iron is more common, and there’s plainly more oxygen around. As for iron and aluminium, silica and carbon, these top ten materials all have their place. Their roles in the industrial world are all instantly recognizable. So, what’s nickel’s role? And why is nickel mining such a challenge?
Just to be clear, nickel is an extremely proficient alloying metal. It’s added to iron and chromium to produce corrosion-resistant stainless steel. There are other usage areas where the element plays an essential part in everyday living, but none are more important or prevalent than the stainless steel industry. And there we have it, a plain as day reason for extracting nickel from deep within the earth. Driven by supply and demand, mining equipment designers and manufacturers have come up with several tailor-made extraction solutions, which are built to provide the nickel processing industry with abundant material resources.
The silvery metal is utilized in some exotic applications. Batteries use Nickel-Cadmium technology. Tungsten carbide tools use nickel as a binding agent. Unfortunately, this exotic disposition has been linked to a few notable issues. If the mining equipment doesn’t use a high-performance build, dust clouds will concentrate. The free-floating materials can cause breathing difficulties, skin rashes, and other complications. Worse still, nickel clouds, when mixed with the right amount of oxygen, can combust. Nickel fines must be regarded with prudence. To deal with nickel cloud dangers, mining equipment manufacturers sell special vacuum-filtered mechanisms as dust deterrents.
In its pure state, the bluish-silver element is soft and malleable. In the real world, just like any other mining scenario, elements are found locked together in ore-filled deposits, though. In sulphide and laterite ores, the metal aggregate enters a primary crusher, where it’s reduced in size before being discharged. Smaller cone crushers and trapezium grinders break the sulphides and laterites into granular discharges. Screened in high-throughput vibratory decks, the equipment uses dust encapsulation technology to keep these fine grains within their processing chain.
To release nickel, the process requires chemical reduction units. It’s these mining assets that leech the valuable element from stubborn ore concentrates. Assuming a fine granular form enters the processing vessels, the crushers and screening equipment must play an important role in the material reduction cycle. Encapsulating the dust, grinding the sulphides, and discharging a fine powder, the Mond Process takes over from the equipment. There’s water to process, carbon monoxide to channel, and nickel tetracarbonyl gas to monitor. Then, when the material is purified, there’s corrosion-resistant steel to produce, coins to make, and advanced batteries to produce, thanks to the finely ground nickel.