ISTANBUL, Mar 11, 2011 (Dow Jones Commodities News via Comtex) -- Japan is trying to grow its investment in copper mining overseas in order to feed its smelters with raw materials, an advisor to the state-owned Japan Oil, Gas and Metals National Corporation, or JOGMEC, said Friday.
The country is around 46% self-sufficient in its copper needs, Kenji Sawada told the Metal Bulletin conference in Istanbul. This includes copper mine production through equity investments outside the country, plus imports to be smelted domestically.
Sawada said that the move came in response to current competition in the concentrate market, which is facing a shortage, and low treatment and refining charges.
Treatment and refining charges fell to their lowest levels in 2008 of 11.6 cents a pound in spite of the move to then-record highs for copper prices. TCs/RCs are charges for turning concentrate into refined metal.
"Since there is no operating copper mine in Japan, all copper concentrates are imported to smelters," Sawada said.
There are seven smelters and refineries, the biggest of which are Pan Pacific Copper Co's Saganoseki and Sumitomo Corp.'s (8053.TO) Toyo, which each have an annual capacity of 450,000 tons.
Japan's search for minerals security is still small on a global scale, however, Sawada said. The five biggest listed miners with copper production capacity have around 23.5% of the 15.805 million tons of copper produced in 2009; Japanese trading companies have just 1.98%.