Nickel is an important constituent of stainless steel, and increases the tensile strength of carbon steel. It is also essential to some other alloys capable of operating at very high temperatures and/or in very aggressive environments. Electro-plating, portable batteries and coinage are other applications.
Canada, Russia and the Pacific rim, particularly New Caledonia, are the major producers.
Stainless steel accounts for 60-65% of global consumption (~1.2m t/y), and collectively, metallurgical applications take over 90% of nickel demand.
In stainless steel, nickel is most associated with austenitic grades (typically 4-22% Ni). It is sometimes present in ferritic and martensitic grades, but at low concentrations. In duplex grades the Ni content can be up to about 7%.
The LME is the basis of nickel pricing (as refined cathode, 99.8% Ni).
The metal can be added to the stainless steel making process as cathode, cut cathode, ferro-nickel (~30-35% Ni) or nickel pig iron. Stainless scrap is also an important source. And for more detail click and see wikipedia.