Since the closure of our Akenobe Mine in 1987, we have been reliant on imports from overseas mines for copper concentrate*, the main raw material used in our products. To ensure stable procurement, we have therefore continued to invest in overseas mines. 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.
To achieve a stable supply of cement, the stable operation of cement production equipment is crucial. In particular, it is important to ensure the long-term stable operation of the cement kiln (90 m length, 5 m diameter, lined with refractory bricks), which burns raw materials for cement at 1450°C to produce clinker, an intermediate product of cement. The cement industry has been working to expand the processing of a range of industrial wastes, and in recent years, the use of waste plastics and other materials, which can replace thermal energy used in the cement kilns, has increased. In connection with this, the lifespan of the refractory bricks inside the kilns has become shorter and the kiln itself needs to be repaired twice annually.
In an effort to prolong the refractory brick’s lifespan, we are continuously working on the development of techniques to analyze the cause of damage to refractory bricks, the measures against faults that reduce the fluctuations in thermal load accompanied by faults, and the selection of suitable refractories. In fiscal 2020, one of the five cement kilns at the Kyushu Plant (Kanda) achieved one year continuous operation without requiring any repairs to the refractory bricks, for the third consecutive year. In fiscal 2021, we will strive to maximize the effect of the high-efficiency burners, which we introduced in fiscal 2020 to improve the combustibility of waste plastics and others. At the same time, we will try to optimize operations by implementing measures for preventing failures, using AI, IoT and other digital technologies in preventive maintenance, as well as utilizing AI for big data analysis. We will continue striving to promote the further stability of cement kiln operations.
Over 80% of worldwide demand for tungsten, the main raw material used in our cemented carbide products, is supplied by China. Although the balance of supply and demand has eased somewhat for the time being, due in part of changes in the external environment with regard to resource policy, the scarcity of tungsten as a rare metal remains largely unchanged. We remain committed to expanding recycling initiatives in the future too.
|Fiscal 2018 Results||Fiscal 2019 Results||Fiscal 2020 Results||Fiscal 2021 Target|
* Indices displayed with fiscal 2018 indexed to 100.