Japan’s base metal firms tap materials market for growth – by Yuka Obayashi (Reuters U.S. – December 19, 2016)


TOKYO – Stung by years of falling base metals prices, Japanese mining and smelting firms are investing hundreds of millions of dollars in specialized materials used in electric vehicles, smartphones and a host of everyday electronic devices.

Companies such as Sumitomo Metal Mining and JX Nippon Mining & Metals, a unit of JX Holdings, are seeking a steady revenue stream in the face of narrow smelting margins and recent heavy write-offs on base metals mines.

The firms hope to cash in on a push by global automakers into electric vehicles as well as new uses for their metals in the coming era of the Internet of Things when everything from screwdrivers to cars is expected to be linked to the Internet.

“We want to stabilize our income by nurturing our materials operation into our third business pillar [along with mining and smelting],” Yoshiaki Nakazato, President at Sumitomo Metal Mining told an analyst meeting.

Specialized materials made from metals in the form of powders, foil and plate to make super-thin film are used in products from batteries for electric vehicles through to appliances like smartphones, air-conditioners and rice cookers.

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