During the Middle Ages, miners in Germany came upon a “brown-red” mineral thought to be copper, but when treated, it failed to produce any copper. The mineral was named Kupfernickel, from the German Kupfer for copper and nickel or the name of a sprite of German mythology blamed for spoiling the copper. In effect, the mineral was nickel arsenide, now known as nickeline.
It was not until 1751, when AF Cronstedt in Sweden produced nickel from nickel-copper-lime ore from the Los mines in Färila parish (Hälsingland). He named the new metal “nickel”. Archaeology has revealed that the Chinese used nickel-iron for the forging of weapons during the Middle Ages.
It was in the 1800’s, when nickel mining began to flourish. The first large scale producer of nickel was Norway, which exploited nickel rich pyrrhotite starting in 1848. In 1863, a large nickel deposit was discovered in New Caledonia. This was followed by the exploration and development of high grade nickel mineralization in Canada in the 1880’s. In Sweden, nickel ore was first mined by Boliden at the Lainejaur mine, during the war years of 1941-1945.
In nature, nickel occurs principally as oxides, sulfides and silicates. It is a fairly common element in the earth’s crust, however, concentrations of the metal in deposits are usually low, hence nickel is costly to extract.