Fukuoka Prefecture of Japan Launches Ta Recycling Business

Fukuoka Prefecture of Japan announced on Wednesday the Prefecture starts public-private business to recycle tantalum. It is regarded as the first case to commercialize tantalum recycling. Mitsui Mining & Smelting, Shibata Industry and Fukuoka Research Center for Recycling Systems cooperatively developed low-cost recycling technology for tantalum collected from used electronic appliances. Fukuoka Prefecture establishes regional system to collect used electronic appliances.

Tantalum is a rare metal used for capacitors inside such electronic devices as smart phones or personal computers. Tantalum supply has mostly relied on import and it has been required to establish tantalum recycling technology.

Mitsui Mining & Smelting is the only Japanese enterprise that can extract tantalum from the ore. Shibata Industry is Fukuoka headed metal recycling company who has knowhow to collect and sort used electronic appliances. The two companies have co-worked to introduce rare metal sorting and collecting facilities, utilizing governmental subsidy by Ministry of Economy, Trade & Industry (METI).

In fiscal 2011 (April 2011-March 2012), the two companies and Fukuoka Research Center for Recycling Systems carried out the business demonstration to collect rare metals from used electronic devices and recycle tantalum.

In the business scheme, Shibata Industry collects tantalum from used electronic appliances and delivers sorted tantalum to Mitsui Mining & Smelting. Mitsui Mining & Smelting extracts and refines tantalum. Recycled tantalum will be used for smart phones and other electronic devices again.

METI estimates tantalum can be recycled at 64 tonnes per year if extracted from all of used electronic and electric appliances disposed in Japan.