TOKYO, Jan 21 (Reuters) - Japan's top copper producer has settled on 2010 processing fees with BHP Billiton Plc/Ltd, setting the industry benchmark for the year, the head of Nippon Mining & Metals Co Ltd said on Thursday.
BHP has agreed to treatment and refining charges of $46.5 a tonne and 4.65 cents a pound, said Nippon Mining's president, Masanori Okada, also the head of the Japan Mining Industry Association.
The prices represent a 38 percent decline from last year.
"Although there are some negotiations still left with other miners, we think of this as the benchmark (for 2010)," said Okada, who was speaking at a mining association news conference.
Nippon Mining owns 66 percent of Pan Pacific Copper Co Ltd, Japan's top copper smelter, with the reminder held by Mitsui Mining and Smelting Co Ltd.
Earlier this month a spokesman at Nippon Mining had acknowledged that an agreement had been reached for the 2010 processing fees with BHP, but he declined to elaborate.
Copper treatment and refining charges for 2010 were first set at those levels with U.S. miner Freeport-McMoRan Copper & Gold Inc (FCX.N) late last year.
Treatment and refining charges were set at $75 and 7.5 cents in 2009.
"Japan's nonferrous metals firms cannot count on their smelting sectors (to make a profit) any more ... and in our case that is why we are putting our efforts in the upstream sector," Okada said.
He said other copper smelters were strengthening other departments such as recycling or electronic materials to make up for their faltering smelting divisions, once a key source of revenue for Japanese smelters.