Pioneer Days of Electrolytic Copper Refining in Japan: From the First Copper Refinery up to the Present Day

Additonal authors: Mackey, Phillip J.. Book title: Proceedings of the 58th Conference of Metallurgists Hosting Copper 2019. Chapter: . Chapter title:

Proceedings, Vol. Proceedings of the 58th Conference of Metallurgists Hosting Copper 2019, 2019

Okabe, Susumu

Copper mining and smelting has been carried out in Japan for over 13 centuries and in fact stretching back into antiquity. In 1889, the first electrolytic copper refinery in Japan based on Elkington’s principles was started by Furukawa Mining at Honjyo in downtown Tokyo based on the multiple or parallel system. Within two decades, a number of other copper refineries had begun operation. Interestingly, but perhaps not surprising given Japan’s long history of copper production, this first refinery in Japan commenced just ten years after the first refinery in the USA (1879), and not long after the first plants in Europe. By 1935, as a result of growth in copper demand, there were six domestic copper electro-refineries in Japan with an installed capacity of 97,800 tonnes/a, while actual production was 71,200 tonnes/a. Since about 1932, the majority of these plants were based on the more common parallel or multiple system. In 1946, just after World War II, domestic production capacity had dropped considerably to 29,000 tonnes/a, however with reconstruction, capacity and production expanded rapidly, with production reaching 81,000 tonnes/a in 1955, 187,000 tonnes/a in 1960 and 307,000 tonnes/a in 1965. The introduction of the first refinery and the early ones that followed and subsequent developments are discussed in this paper. The major technical achievements during the high growth period from 1945 to 1963 included: the use of fire- refined anodes; the introduction of newly-developed rectifiers; the introduction of lead-lined or vinyl-lined concrete cells; improvements in the electrolyte heating system; application of improved anti-corrosion materials and the introduction of heat-insulating surface coverings. In 2018, Japan’s refined copper production totaled 1,595,000 tonnes of copper, with Japan ranking third in the world after China and Chile. INTRODUCTION In 2018, Japan’s refined copper production totalled 1,595,000 tonnes of copper and Japan ranked third in the world for refined copper after China and Chile (Wood Mackenzie, 2019). There are now eight copper refineries in Japan which provide Japan’s production of refined copper. These plants are listed in Table 1 (Wood Mackenzie, 2019), also showing the production trend since 2013; in general, production over this period has been relatively steady. The Toyo plant is now the 7th largest copper refinery in the world after several large plants as rated by capacity in China, Russia and India (ICSG, 2019).
Keywords: Copper 2019, COM2019