Mining in Japan

Mining in Japan is minimal because Japan possesses very few mining resources. Japanese mining was a rapidly declining industry in the 1980s. Coal production shrank from a peak of 55 million tons in 1960 to slightly more than 16 million tons in 1985, while coal imports grew to nearly 91 million tons in 1987. Domestic coal mining companies faced cheap coal imports and high production costs, which caused them chronic deficits in the 1980s. In the late 1980s, Japan’s approximately 1 million tons of coal reserves were mostly hard coal used for coking. Most of the coal Japan consumed is used to produce electric power.

Oil wells have been drilled off the west coast of Honshū and Japan has oil concessions in North Sakhalin. Iron is scarce outside of Hokkaidō and northwest Honshū, and iron pyrite has been discovered in Honshū, Shikoku and Karafuto. A modest quantity of copper and gold is mined around Honshū, Hokkaidō and Karafuto.

Japanese coal is found at the extreme ends of the country, in Hokkaidō and Kyūshū, which have, respectively, 45 and 40 percent of the country’s coal deposits. Kyūshū’s coal is generally of poor quality and hard to extract, but the proximity of the Kyūshū mines to ports facilitates transportation. In Hokkaido, the coal seams are wider and can be worked mechanically, and the quality of the coal is good. Unfortunately, these mines are located well inland, making transportation difficult. In most Japanese coal mines, inclined galleries, which extended in some places to 9.71 kilometers underground, were used instead of pits. This arrangement is costly, despite the installation of moving platforms. The result is that a miner’s daily output is far less than in Western Europe and the United States and domestic coal costs far more than imported coal.

As the coal mining industry declined, so did the general importance of domestic mining to the whole economy. Only 0.2% of the labor force was engaged in mining operations in 1988, and the value added from mining was about 0.3% of the total for all mining and manufacturing. Domestic mining production supplies an important quantity of some nonmetals: silica sand, pyrophyllite clay, dolomite, and limestone. Domestic mines are contributing declining shares of the country’s requirements for some metals: zinc, copper, and gold. Almost all of the ores used in the nation’s sophisticated processing industries are imported.

Because the Japanese archipelago is located in a place where the crustal deformation is a subduction zone, it is not a large scale, but it produces various kinds of mineral resources. Until the 1970s, mining in various places in Japan had minor amounts of petroleum and natural gas, but mining such as coal, gold, silver, copper, iron and zinc was done on a large scale. After the high economic growth period, in addition to resource depletion or low grade, price competitiveness was lost due to increase in mining cost, and many mines stopped operation. Currently, operations are mainly conducted by limestone and others, and only a small number of other mines are being operated.

While the Japanese archipelago is small, various kinds of mineral resources can be mined. Even small quantities of high-value gold and silver output had a high level in the world. When entering the Meiji era, mine development was promoted under the policy of the Fukoku Militia, and coal mines in Ashio Copper and Hokkaido and northern Kyushu, the Kamaishi mine (iron ore) were developed.

Until the 1960s during the period of high economic growth, active mining was continued in mines in various places. However, because large-scale mining is difficult, quality is bad, and costs are high, prices are low and imported foreign quality resources with high quality are imported, and closed down in various places. In the beginning of the 21st century, mining has been done only in the Kushiro coal field in order to succeed technology. For other mines, price competitiveness has been lost due to exhaustion of resources, deterioration of quality, increase in mining costs including personnel expenses, and many are closed down.

With regard to gold and silver, since the high profitability can be expected even in small amounts, organized exploration by the Metal Mining Industry Association has been continued, and operations such as the Hishikari mine have been found and continued. Besides this, sulfur, iodine, limestone, and silica are still sufficiently domestically mined.

Production locations
Production of copper in 1917 was 108,000 tonnes, in 1921 54,000 tonnes, in 1926 63,400 tonnes but this production was augmented to 70,000 tonnes in 1931–1937. Gold production in Korea was 6.2 ton in 1930 rising to 26.1 ton/year at peak. In rivers and mines, other deposits were in Saganoseki (Ōita) Honshū, Kuyshu, and North Formosa. Also Japan imported gold from overseas. Other important iron sources were Muroran (Hokkaidō) and Kenjiho (Korea). Total reserves were 90 M tonnes of their own, 10 M or 50 M in Korea (Kenjiho) and Formosa. Japan imported iron from Tayeh (China), 500,000 tonnes in 1940, from Malacca, Johore and other points, 1,874,000 tonnes, from Philippines 1,236,000 tonnes, India sent 1,000,000 tonnes and 3,000,000 processed iron in bars and Australia sent a similar quantity. The principal silver mines were in Kosaki, Kawaga and Hitachi, and others in Karafuto with Iron Pyrite.

The production of gold was curbed in 1943 by Order for Gold Mine Consolidation to concentrate on the minerals more important for the munitions production.

Japanese fuels production (1916–1945)

Coal deposits
The Japans Mining Office, in 1925 referred to coal reserves in the empire of 8,000 million tonnes, or 2,933 million tonnes (Kyūshū, Miiki and Mitsui deposits), 2,675 or 3,471 million tonnes (Hokkaidō, ones 1,113,600 million from Yubari mine), 1,362 million tonnes (Karafuto, in Kawakami deposits), 614 million tonnes (Honshū), 385 million tonnes (Formosa, in the Kirun area), 81 million tonnes (Korea). Extraction in Japan during 1912 was 20,000,000 tonnes, in 1932 in 30,000,000 tonnes and grew in 1941 to 55,500,000 tonnes and was divided between the following sources, in tonnes: Korea (5,000,000), Formosa (2,500,000) and Karafuto (2,500,000) and additional imports 4,000,000 tonnes from China and Indochina.

Oil sources
In 1925, the local petroleum reserves were estimated at 2,956,000 barrels in Niigata, Akita and Nutsu deposits, additionally at Sakhalin concessions. Japanese petroleum production was in 1941 2,659,000 barrels — about the daily production in the U.S., and 0.1% of world petroleum production. In Manchukuo, oil wells gave Japan 1,000,000 of additional petroleum tonnes per year. The local oils fields of Akita, Niigata and Nutsu produced 2,659,000 barrels. Additionally, they obtained oil in Formosa (1,000,000) and Soviet Sakhalin (1,000,000) and the Manchu oil distillery process.

As in 2016, remaining active oil fields are:

Gojonome field in Gojōme, Akita
several oil and gas fields in Niigata prefecture, including Nanatani in Kamo, Niigata and Uonuma field in Uonuma, Niigata.
Motojuku field in Shōwa, Gunma

Metal sources
Cobalt, Copper, Gold, Iron, Lead, Manganese, Silver, Tin, Tungsten and Zinc are common and were extensively mined in Japan.

Barium, Berillium, Bismuth, Cadmium, Chromium, Indium, Lithium, Mercury, Molybdenum, Nickel, Titanium, Uranium and Vanadium are uncommon but still were mined in Japan.

Non-metal elemental sources
Antimony, Arsenic, Boron, Germanium, Graphite and Sulphur were all mined in Japan.

Complex mineral sources
Japan has a history of mining deposits of:

Hard stone – Granite, Granodiorite, Diorite, Feldspar, Quartz (Silica stone), Sand (including silica sand), Petuntse (pottery stone), Dunite
Carbonates – Dolomite, Limestone,
Clays – Kaolinite, Sericite, Bentonite, Fuller’s earth
Soft and heat insulating stone – Pyrophyllite, Talc, Asbestos, Diatomaceous earth, Perlite
Other – Emery (rock), Calcite, Gypsum, Fluorite, Zeolite, Phosphorite

Natural gas
There is significant natural gas reserves remaining in:

Mobara gas field in Chiba Prefecture.
Sado island gas field (suspected offshore oil field have failed to materialize)
Southern Okinawa gas field

Source from Wikipedia