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Fundamentally, these levels seem quite strong a this is approximately where the cost price of China's nickel pig iron stands, which is nickel's key competitor.
Nickel pig iron (NPI), a rough-and-ready substitute for ferronickel, was intended as an emergency stop-gap to tide buyers over until the LME price normalized.
Prior to these export restrictions Indonesia was a significant supplier of nickel laterite ore to China for use as feedstock in the production of nickel pig iron, a low nickel grade iron alloy used extensively in China for the production of stainless steel.
Elsewhere in the base metals complex, trade data into China showed a sharp rise in the imports of low grade nickel ore, as China's nickel pig iron production appears to be ramping up.
The Brisbane-based company produces both nickel pig iron (NPI) and merchant pig iron (MPI) at its plant near the city of Linyi in China's Shandong Province.
It is unlikely the markets will ever see $20-per pound nickel again now that China can produce nickel pig iron at single digit costs, says Jim Lennon, executive director in commodities research with Macquaire Bank Limited in London.
A brief recovery in prices could be helped by the Chinese government's intention to close a large number of small blast furnace producers of nickel pig iron located around Beijing in the weeks before and during the August Olympics, which could lead to a tightening of supply during late summer.
Several reports have noted that China, a major consumer and producer of stainless steel, is using nickel pig iron as a partial substitute for refined nickel or ferro-nickel to offset the higher nickel prices.