Sustainable Supply Chain Management

Diversifying Procurement of Raw Materials

International Issues Surrounding Resources and the Group's Role

International Issues Surrounding Resources and the Group's Role

Worldwide Demand and Restrictions on Resources

Of all the base metals, copper in particular is used for a wide range of purposes. While there are risks such as short-term metal prices and exchange rate fluctuations, demand is forecast to continue growing over the long term, not least due to infrastructure development in emerging economies.
However, as copper-producing regions around the world are limited and competition for the resource is intensifying, promising production regions are becoming increasingly rare. Recently, policies to protect national resources in resource-holding countries and anti-development campaigns due to growing environmental awareness are on the rise. In addition, newly developed mines require mining at higher elevations and to greater depths, while the quality is lower and also contains more impurities. This has made securing clean copper concentrates a more important challenge than ever.

Sustainable Mine Operation

Since the closure of our domestic Akenobe Mine in 1987, we have been reliant on imports from overseas mines for copper concentrates*, the main raw material used in our products. To reduce the environmental impact caused by mine development and ensure the sustainable development of local communities, when investing in overseas mines we emphasize not only legal and regulatory compliance but a “Social License to Operator” approach, and endeavor to minimize the ecological impact caused by the mines in which we invest. Depending on our level of investment, we also assign personnel to mines in other countries, and provide support to ensure that mines are developed sustainably in the best interests of the environment and the local community.
At the Mantoverde Mine, one of the mines in which we are invested, we aim to continually achieve our target of zero accidents involving employees based on our belief that all occupational illnesses are preventable, and all accidents are opportunities for improvement. We strive to strengthen our efforts in this regard through commendations and training provided to employees and contractors.

To learn more about our biodiversity initiatives for overseas mines, see the section on “Reducing Environmental Impact and Preventing Environmental Pollution – Preserving Biodiversity” 

  • Copper concentrate: The state mined in the mine is "Ore", but when it is beneficiated and the copper grade is improved, it becomes "Concentrate". "Copper Concentrate" is imported into Japan.

Overseas Copper Mines and Development Projects

Overseas Copper Mines and Development Projects

  • Figures indicate ownership interest in mines and development projects.

The Growing Importance of Developing Urban Mines

The efficient recycling of resources is becoming increasingly important, in terms of securing stable supplies of metal resources and enabling the sustainable development of society as a whole. In particular, waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE), such as televisions, computers and cellular phones contain large quantities of valuable metals such as precious metals and rare metals. These “urban mines”* are also being thrust into the spotlight because they enable highly efficient extraction (recycling) of resources with minimal impact on the environment and local communities compared to natural mines.
In addition to the smelting and refining technologies that our Group has built up over more than a century, for nonferrous metals, we have a wealth of technologies and expertise in recycling, and continue to actively work on recycling, particularly E-Scrap (mainly printed circuit boards and other recyclable materials picked out from dismantled and crushed WEEE).
Alongside our high-level operational expertise and the “Mitsubishi Process,” a unique continuous copper smelting and converting process developed exclusively by Mitsubishi Materials, we have established a global collection network, and are constantly working to improve and reinforce acceptance and processing capacity, as well as services such as our online booking system.
In February 2018 we newly established a collection plant in the Netherlands, handling activities such as intake, inspection and sampling of E-Scrap. This has increased the Groupʼs annual E-Scrap intake and processing capacity to approximately 160,000 tons.

  • A concept that treats the above-ground accumulation of discarded electronic equipment and other industrial products as resources from which valuable resources can be recovered.

Rolling out E-Scrap Recycling Operations Globally

Rolling out E-scrap recycling operations globally

Acting as a Responsible Partner in Recycling International Resources

In recent years, we have been disposing of large quantities of electric and electronic devices that have outlived their useful lifespan as WEEE. These devices still have potential value as urban mines. However, there are concerns that they could also cause environmental contamination from lead, mercury or other harmful substances if they are processed inappropriately. To address this issue, in 2003 the European Union (EU) introduced a directive to limit volumes, and promote the reuse and recycling of WEEE.
Within the EU, a certification scheme is being put in place for companies throughout the recycling chain, to encourage them to handle WEEE in an appropriate manner. In fall 2016, we became the first company in Japan to obtain certification under the Standard on End-Processing of WEEE Fractions (E-Scrap) at the Naoshima Smelter & Refinery and Onahama Smelter & Refinery (Onahama Smelting & Refining Co. Ltd.).
At the fifteenth Conference of the Parties to the Basel Convention (COP15) in 2022, proposals from Switzerland and Ghana were adopted, placing stricter restrictions on the international movements of WEEE. This and other developments are increasingly promoting the local production and local consumption of recycled resources. The Group will continue to build on the technologies and knowledge developed so far and leverage the strong networks it has developed with suppliers in Japan and overseas to continue to contribute to the sustainable development of society as a leading company in responsible E-Scrap recycling.