Mitsui agrees with Microwave Chemical Co., Ltd. to Collaborate on the Development of Microwave-based Low-carbon Lithium Ore Processing Technology

Jun. 27, 2023

Mitsui & Co., Ltd
Microwave Chemical Co., Ltd.

Mitsui & Co., Ltd. ("Mitsui", Head Office: Tokyo, President and CEO: Kenichi Hori) and Microwave Chemical Co., Ltd. ("MWCC", Head Office: Osaka, President and Representative Director: Iwao Yoshino) have concluded an agreement concerning the joint development of microwave-based low-carbon lithium ore processing technology.

The purpose of the joint development project is to establish the world's first eco-friendly microwave-based lithium ore processing method to electrify the calcination process, which is the main source of the carbon dioxide emitted when lithium is processed. Through the joint development project, pilot verification will be carried out with a view to a transition to commercial operations by 2026. The two companies will consider the use of the technology at new lithium mines and converters.

Mitsui & Co. has been working since the 1960s to maintain stable supplies of metal resources to Japan and world markets through its active engagement in the development of iron ore and coking coal. It has also prioritized the development of non-ferrous metals, including copper, nickel, and aluminum, and in recent years has focused on the development of lithium resources to meet rapidly expanding demand. Through this joint development project, Mitsui & Co. will use its global networks and knowledge of the mining business to understand the decarbonization needs of its customers, while introducing low-carbon lithium processing technology globally.

In 2014, MWCC successfully developed the world's first manufacturing process in which microwaves are used to heat materials at a large-scale chemical plant. The company has been contributing to the achievement of carbon-neutrality by providing revolutionary electrification processes for use in the chemical sector and a wide variety of other industries. In recent years, it has created the Green Mining-MX microwave technology platform for mining processes. Via the platform, MWCC has been working with the National Institutes for Quantum Science and Technology to develop energy-efficient, low-carbon processing technologies through the use of microwaves to heat materials.

There has been a rapid shift towards the use of electric power in the mobility sector as part of efforts to reduce carbon emissions. Lithium, which is used in batteries for electric vehicles (EVs), has been designated* as an important mineral in many countries, and the development of reliable supply networks for it has also become a priority from an economic security perspective. Another issue is the emission of large quantities of carbon dioxide during the processing due to the use of fossil fuel combustion to heat the lithium ore. Demand for low-carbon lithium produced using eco-friendly methods is expected to grow.

Mitsui aims to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050 and to halve by 2030 its greenhouse gas (GHG) impact compared with the level in the fiscal year ended March 2020. Through this project, Mitsui will contribute to the realization of a carbon-neutral society by establishing a reliable lithium supply chain.

By making this new lithium ore processing technology available to society, MWCC will promote its C NEUTRAL™ 2050 design concept toward achieving carbon neutrality, while striving to realize its vision, which is "To reinvent a chemical industry which has remained unchanged for over a century and transform the world of manufacturing. To make microwave processing into a global standard".

*Examples include Japan's Economic Security Promotion Act and the US Inflation Reduction Act.

Company Profile

Official name Microwave Chemical Co., Ltd.
Head Office Location 5F, Photonics Center,
Graduate School of Engineering, Osaka University,
2-1 Yamadaoka, Suita,Osaka 565-0871, Japan
Established 2007
Representative Iwao Yoshino
Number of employees 59
Business Activities Research & development and engineering of microwave chemical process Licensing of microwave chemical process

Demonstration plant of MWCC in Osaka, JapanDemonstration plant of MWCC in Osaka, Japan

Mitsui’s Materiality

“Build brighter futures, everywhere” as our corporate mission, and to gain the trust and expectations of our stakeholders to realize a better tomorrow for earth and for people around the world, we have identified five material issues (“Materiality”) for Mitsui’s sustainable growth. We anticipate this particular project/ business to contribute especially to the realization of “Secure sustainable supply of essential products” and “Create an eco-friendly society”

  • Secure sustainable supply of essential products

    Secure sustainable supply of essential products

  • Enhance quality of life

    Enhance quality of life

  • Create an eco-friendly society

    Create an eco-friendly society

  • Develop talent leading to value creation

    Develop talent leading to value creation

  • Build an organization with integrity

    Build an organization with integrity