Metal resources have been growing more important as contemporary society becomes more comfortable, convenient, and sophisticated. Japan used to be one of the world's leading silver- and copper-producing countries. However, it saw the closure of one mine after another due to the depletion of the resource or because the mining business was no longer profitable due to the shift to the floating exchange rate system, rising personnel costs, rising costs for environmental measures, or other changes. At present, Japan is reliant on other countries for almost all the metal resources it requires.
In addition, a major environmental impact is unavoidable in development areas, resulting in a significant impact on the subsistence rights of the local people. Accordingly, a sufficient consensus is required to be built with consideration for human rights, employment and labor problems, and other issues.
Major countries from which Japan imports metal resources (2016)
With its history tracing back to a coal mining and mining business as the roots of the Mitsubishi Group, Mitsubishi Materials has supported the modernization of Japan. Having gone through changing times, it now helps enrich people's lives as a comprehensive material manufacturer by supplying basic materials that are indispensable in the world while continuing to improve its technical capabilities.
While recent years have seen a rapid increase in the demand for many mineral resources due to the industrial development of emerging countries, restrictions related to resources have been increasing. For example, many resource-producing countries restrict exports under protectionism, while oligopolization by international capital (major resources companies) makes progress.
In Japan, which relies on imports for many mineral resources, it is a major challenge to secure resources and ensure the stable supply of materials and products demanded in society while firmly maintaining appropriate prices and fair trade. However, we believe that the role we play as a comprehensive material manufacturer is important for maintaining the competitiveness of diverse industries for our customers and for ensuring resource security.
Increasing importance of resource recycling
With so many different challenges becoming apparent in the resource sector, there has been a renewed focus on the importance of resource recycling. In the EU for instance there has been much discussion regarding the concept of a “circular economy.”
One of the key characteristics of our operations here at the Mitsubishi Materials Group is our "urban mine" recycling business, which enables us to extract (recycle) resources more efficiently than developing natural underground resources, with less of an impact on the environment or local communities.
As outlined in this report's special feature, our E-scrap recycling operations similarly enable us to efficiently recycle high-value resources such as gold and silver as part of the metal smelting processes we use for our core operations, whilst at the same time effectively separating and treating harmful substances.
We continue to step up initiatives aimed at increasing intake of such materials, so that we can live up to our customers' expectations and meet needs on a global scale.
On other fronts, we are working to recycle a wide range of resources that are inextricably linked to public demand, including aluminum cans, used home appliances, electronic devices and vehicles, which contain more and more electrical components these days. In recent years, we have also been playing a supporting role behind the scenes in the Tohoku area, through activities such as decontaminating and processing large volumes of rubble from the Great East Japan Earthquake using our high-temperature burning process for cement.
Our expert knowledge of materials is what enables us to recycle and reuse the precious resources that nature provides. We take pride in that fact and are determined to become the leading business Group committed to creating a sustainable world.