Japan Chemical Trading Blog
Indium Prices Down
Nowadays, I report on more and more price-down news, whether it is organic chemical products or others.
Today, I am reporting about indium.
Indium is a soft, silver-white rare metal, produced as a by-product of zinc.
It is processed into indium tin oxide (standard configuration: 90% In2O3, 10% SnO2, commonly known as ITO), which is used as a target material in the production of LCDs, touch screens, solar cells, and organic ELs.
There are other metals that have better conductivity than indium; however, it also features transparency in the form of thin film. Recently, the demand for indium to be used in the above-mentioned final products which require these features has increased.
It also has excellent malleability and ductility and is not subject to RoHS, so it can be used as lead-free solder material as well.
Toyoha Mine (Sapporo, Hokkaido, Japan), a subsidiary of Nippon Mining (currently JX Nippon Mining & Metals Corporation), used to produce the most indium in the world, but the mine closed in 2006 because of minable ore depletion (the immediate cause of closure was that the company couldn’t use any more dynamite for blasting purposes because of geothermal energy activities).
Indium is now produced by Dowa Metals & Mining, which has the largest zinc smelter in Japan, and other companies such as Sumitomo Metal Mining, Mitsui Mining & Smelting, JX Nippon Mining & Metals, Mitsubishi Materials, Shinko Chemical and Asahi Pretec.
Globally speaking, in recent years, China is the biggest metal producing country.
Approximately 700 tons a year of virgin base metal are produced in the world.
Demand from Japan used to be by far the biggest (80% of it was for ITO target material), but it has been dropping since around 2012 because of many reasons such as progress in recycling, the market share increase of other countries’ products (e.g., Samsung Corning, Korea) associated with the declining competitiveness of Japanese manufacturers, international relocation of the production bases of Japanese companies, diffusion of substitutes, etc.
As for the prices, Japan Metal Bulletin reported on January 27 that the market rates of low grade indium for solder and alloy are 76,000 Japanese yen to 81,000 Japanese yen.
Though indium prices continue to fall globally, the prices in Japan have been rather stable as a weak yen offsets dollar price falls.
Nevertheless, indium prices in Japan may drop in the future since the Chinese market has been soft and has dropped more than 25% since November, and the prices on the London Metal Bulletin continued to fall on January 28 from USD640 to USD550 per kilogram.
Since this anticipation of low prices may bring restrained buying, many people expect the indium market to continue to fall unless the sense of uncertainty in the world economy diminishes.