International Copper Association (ICA) member JX Nippon Mining and Metals Corporation is committed to building a more circular society. Circularity is a core tenet of the company’s “Sustainable Copper Vision” for greener production. As a result, JX Nippon has set new targets for circular production at its sites while pursuing new partnerships and opportunities to increase the amount of recycled copper in circulation.
JX Nippon has committed to increasing the ratio of recycled raw materials at its operations to 25 percent by 2030 by tying this target to a transition linked loan (TLL). A TLL is a loan explicitly for decarbonization efforts that uses progress toward sustainability targets to determine interest rate conditions. As the first Japanese nonferrous metals company to pursue a TLL, JX Nippon wants to demonstrate its commitment to the circular economy and help the company progress toward its longer-term goal to increase its recycling ratio to 50 percent at its smelters by 2040.
In 2021, the company integrated its Smelting Technology Department and its Recycling Technology Department to better align technological development for its “Green Hybrid Smelting” process, which allows copper concentrate and copper scrap to be smelted simultaneously in a flash smelting furnace. The Saganoseki Smelter and Refinery has implemented the hybrid smelting process, which uses the heat released from the thermal oxidation of copper concentrate to produce a copper anode with almost no fossil fuel use. In its efforts to increase recycling rates at the smelter, JX Nippon expanded the Changpin Recycle Center in Taiwan and established the Oita Recycling Logistics Center to better collect and pre-treat scrap for recycling at the Saganoseki smelter.
Preparing for Future Recycling Demand
While the company has worked to align its internal business practices to reach its circularity goals, it has also expanded its operations to address the future recycling demand of the green transition. JX Nippon acquired the Canadian-based company eCycle, which processes electronic scrap and provides information technology disposal services. According to JX Nippon, eCycle is Canada’s largest electronic waste recycler in terms of market share. The company sees its entry into the North American recycling market as a long-term strategy to continue its “Green Hybrid Smelting” process and reach its recycling targets. It aims to create a global recycling supply chain from manufacturing to recycling in anticipation of future demand for recycled materials.
In addition, investments in EV battery recycling allow the company to prepare for the changing needs of the energy transition. JX Nippon established a new company called JX Metals Circular Solutions to develop production technology for closed-loop recycling of automotive lithium-ion batteries (Libs). The new venture will continue to focus on the recovery and recycling of end-of-life LiBs. JX Nippon has already developed a partnership research consortium, the “HVBatCycle,” through its subsidiary, TANIOBIS GmbH, to prove that drive battery (i.e., LiB) components can be recovered and reused in succession. The project focuses on using a mechanical-hydrometallurgical method, an energy-efficient recycling process, that is more profitable and environmentally friendly due to its lower energy requirements. The company began testing its hydrometallurgical process at its Hitachi Works site in 2020. Led by the Volkswagen Group and supported by the German Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Climate Action, the research consortium includes researchers from academia, industry and business working to accelerate the shift to EVs.
JX Nippon continues to promote circularity through collaboration with academia to extend the lifespan of its electronic and automotive technological components. To promote innovation in this field, the company created the JX Nippon Mining and Metals Joint Research Chair for Circular Economy Promotion at Osaka University. The program aims to study production processes and technologies that contribute to the circular economy. JX Nippon has also studied the contribution its recycled materials make to reduce carbon emissions in the copper production process. Through life cycle assessments (LCA), the company can quantitively understand the amount of carbon generated at each stage of the production process, including the effect of recycling on carbon reduction across a product’s lifecycle.
By incorporating LCA data into its corporate strategies and leveraging new partnerships, JX Nippon will be well positioned to meet the growing demand for recycled materials and establish a more circular supply chain for green materials like copper.
About JX Nippon Mining and Metals
A technology-based company, JX Nippon Mining and Metals conducts global business operations in multiple fields, ranging from resource development, smelting and refining to manufacturing and sales of electronic materials to recycling end-of-life equipment. The company is committed to leveraging its technologies and expertise to achieve the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) through its Sustainable Copper Vision. Headquartered in Minato City, Japan, JX Mining and Metals maintains 33 operations throughout Japan and an additional 38 sites globally.
The International Copper Association (ICA) brings together the global copper industry to develop and defend markets for copper and make a positive contribution to the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals. Headquartered in Washington, D.C., ICA has offices in three primary regions: Asia, Europe and North America. ICA and its Copper Alliance® partners are active in more than 60 countries worldwide.