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Japan’s Rich Gold Mining History (and Future)

Japan has a very interesting story about the gold production and its history there. For a long time gold has taken found in Japan, but it has been done in a steady and insignificant way. But all that changed in 1981 with the one of the most significant finds in the history of the country.

Gold Finds Throughout the Years in Japan

Japan has always been lacking in minerals and precious resources that were needed to grow its blossoming economy over the years. There has never been much in the way of large scale mining that took place there in terms of gold or other important minerals.

Despite any economically important deposits, gold has been found there on a smaller scale throughout the years since it was first discovered way back in the 13th century. Most of this gold came from only one of three places in the country.

Sado Kinzan Gold Mine

This gold mine had been active from the 1600’s all the way through until 1980. For many of those years it was the only active gold mine in Japan and was a considerable operation for that time. The mine is located in Niigata Prefecture.

Total production for this mine is an estimated 78 tons of gold and 2,300 tons of silver. This was extracted from 15-million tons of ore. The depths of the mine tunnels go as far as 800 meters below the surface, and there are believed to be around 400 kilometers of mine tunnels.

Now that the mine is no longer in operations, it is actually open to the public to view and explore. The most interesting thing is the miles of tunnels through the hard rock that you can walk through. One interesting thing about these tours is that they do a good job of depicting both the early mining methods that were used many centuries ago, as well as the more modern techniques used in the past decades.

Toi Gold Mine

This mine located on the Izu Peninsula was discovered and mined as early as 1370 and produced gold off and on until 1980. As many as 60 mines have been worked on the Izu Peninsula which brought considerable growth to this part of Japan during the height of the mining here.

This mine was the 2nd most productive mine in Japan behind the Sado Mine, and was a considerable gold and silver producer for many centuries.

Like the Sado Mine, the Toi Gold Mine has tours and a museum that visitors can come and explore the workings of the historic operations. One fun attraction here is the world’s largest gold bar, weighing 250 kilograms!

Konomai Gold Mine

This mine was discovered in 1917 and was actively mined as recently as 1973. It is located in the Abashiri Subprefecture. The height of the mining here was in the 1940’s, when as many as 13,000 miners and their families lived and worked at the mine.

Recent Gold Discoveries in Japan

Relatively recent drill testing by exploration companies in Japan have caused renewed interest about the potential for gold mining in the country. In 1981, Sumitomo Metal Mining Company did several drill tests with exceptional results.

21 of 21 test holes produced gold, and the amount of gold content was 6 to 10 times higher than anticipated.
Estimates of the total gold reserves here are believed to be richer than all of the other gold mines in Japan, which would double the total amount of gold ever produced in Japan.

The mine became known as the Hishikari Mine and it’s located in the northern part of Kagoshima Prefecture. The gold field is said to be unique in nature because of the unusual volcanic activity that took place in the area several thousand years ago.

It is the only gold mine in operation in the country today.

Even with this incredibly high yielding gold mine, Japan still did not rank in the top 15 gold producing countries in 2014. Still, the development of this mine has considerably increased the total precious metals output of the country.

Also Read: The Largest Piece of Gold Ever Found

What Lies Ahead

There is little doubt that the Hishikari Mine area will keep yielding high quality large concentrations of gold for years to come; what remains to be seen is if there will be any more discoveries that will have similar concentrations of gold like it elsewhere in the country. Only time will tell.

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