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Electric vehicles, 5G to drive base metal demand growth: Japan mining association

Tokyo — Electric vehicles and 5G telecommunications are the key drivers of base metal demand in the coming years, the Japan Mining Industry Association chairman told reporters Wednesday.

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Naoki Ono, who was named the association's new chairman Wednesday, said the increase in electric vehicles and the roll out of 5G telecommunication infrastructure are bound to happen and will support metal demand.

"From the third quarter of 2018, there were signs of economic growth slowing notably in the electronic components. But fundamentals are not weak at all. With the EV and 5G coming, demand fall is unlikely in a longer term," he said.

The association consists of copper, zinc, lead and nickel smelters in Japan.

On Tuesday, state-run Japan Oil, Gas and Metal National Corporation, or JOGMEC, held a presentation on base metal demand outlook in Tokyo.

JOGMEC said Japan's copper demand is seen to grow steadily from 2018 to 2022.

Demand for copper cables is seen to grow 2.6% to 714,000 mt in 2022 from 696,000 mt in 2018, while copper used for rolled copper alloy products will rise 6% to 690,000 mt from around 650,000 mt over the same period, JOGMEC said citing forecast from industry associations.

Nickel demand for batteries is seen to rise but forecast would depend on EV sales and the amount of nickel required for the battery cathode, JOGMEC nickel research analyst Risa Shibahara said.

Globally, around 120,000 mt of nickel was used for batteries in 2018, Shibahara said citing Wood Mackenzie report. Research firms forecast 2025 global nickel demand in a range from 160,000-400,000 mt, the analyst added.

JOGMEC's zinc analyst Anna Munei said Japan's demand for zinc is seen to stay more or less flat in the coming years. Demand from the steel sector for galvanized zinc-coated steel is decreasing, but this could be offset by demand increases for diecasting and zinc sheets.

-- Mayumi Watanabe, mayumi.watanabe@spglobal.com

-- Edited by Ikhhlaq Singh Aujla, newsdesk@spglobal.com