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Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Mining In Japan

After writing about the Hanaoka Mine incident of WWII (see HERE), I should note that I only found it after doing minor research on mining in Japan.

I still didn’t know what sort of elements were being mined.

As you might suspect, Japan isn’t rich in mining resources, but it does have small amounts of plenty of things that have enabled to have a “mining industry”—just nothing on the same scale as what Canada, China, Russia or the U.S., just to name a few examples.

Coal was a decent-sized industry, but depending on which coal source one was mining, the quality was either good or it was bad.

Over in Kyūshū - Japan’s southern part of the main islands—coal makes up about 40 percent of Japan’s industry, but it is of inferior quality, difficult to extract , but it continues because it is close to multiple Japanese ports.

Hokkaidō up in the north, is the other locale for the mining of coal. It’s operation yields about 45 percent of Japan’s coal resources, and it’s coal is of a good quality. Also in its favor is the fact that since the veins are wide, it can be mined mechanically. It’s drawback is that the majority of the mines are located well inland meaning it’s a bugger to transport out, or at least more cost prohibitive.

Nowadays, coal is used to burn and create steam to move turbines that create electrical power… something that has increased lately owing to Japan’s declining involvement in nuclear power generation after a check of facilities found Japan’s nuclear safety programs to be a sham.

This was was begun after a 9.0 Magnitude earthquake on March 11, 2011 caused a super high tsuanmi to crash over and into a nuclear powered electrical generation facility in Fukushima. After power was lost to the six reactor facility, three of the reactors almost went into full-scale nuclear meltdown.

This led the country to perform an in-depth investigation into the protocols of all its nuclear reactors, eventually leading to the full-scale shutdown of them while the safety checks were performed. Six years after the initial concern, almost all Japanese reactors remain shuttered, meaning Japan has to get its electricity generated somehow. 

Coal, oil and gas are the solution, while the country struggles to determine if geothermal, wind or other energy sources might prove a more viable alternative.   

The burning of coal is, of course, is a heavy pollutant of the air.

I would have thought that one of the more plentiful metals available for mining in Japan would be iron, because iron and carbon makes steel… something every good samurai’s sword should be made from.

Samurai swords are more often than not, produced from tamaganane (玉鋼) - steel produced from iron sand, a form of iron ore.

However… outside of Hokkaidō and the northern parts of the Honshu island of Japan, iron is generally not found.

Iron pyrite, the slightly more technical name for Fool’s Gold, has been discovered in Honshū, Shikoku and Karafuto.

Perhaps surprising only to me, it is used in the commercial production of sulfur dioxide, which is used in the paper industry, as well as the manufacture of sulfuric acid.

Gold and copper are also found in fair amounts around Honshū, Hokkaidō and Karafuto.

This might blow your mind considering that silver used to be a huge mining industry in Japan, but there are currently no silver mines in operation… unless they are some small private concerns.

Even so, there were only four silver mines in Japan: Iwami Ginzan Silver Mine, Konomai Gold Mine, Sado Mine, and Toi Gold Mine…  

At one point in time, silver from the Iwami Ginzan was considered to be of such high-quality that merchants around the world would place a monetary premium for it. Ill do a write-up on this one soon enough.   

Gold… because Japan had gold mines in Korea, getting a handle on just how much gold it produced over the centuries is tricky at best.

Oil. There were oil reserves in Akita-ken, Niigata-ken and Gunma-ken, but not enough to make anyone think they should join OPEC…

Mined Japanese Metals:
Cobalt, Copper, Gold, Iron, Lead, Manganese, Silver, Tin, Tungsten and Zinc.

Barium, Berillium, Bismuth, Cadmium, Chromium, Indium, Lithium, Mercury, Molybdenum, Nickel, Titanium, Uranium and Vanadium.

Mined Japanese Non-Metals:
Antimony, Arsenic, Boron, Germanium, Graphite and Sulphur.

Mined Minerals
Hard stone
Granite, Granodiorite, Diorite, Feldspar, Quartz (Silica stone), Sand (including silica sand), Petuntse (pottery stone), and Dunite.

Dolomite and Limestone.

Kaolinite, Sericite, Bentonite, Fuller's earth.

Soft Stone and Insulating Stone
 Pyrophyllite, Talc, Asbestos, Diatomaceous earth (it’s sharp edges have been used to kill bedbugs) and Perlite.

Emery (rock), Calcite, Gypsum, Fluorite, Zeolite, and Phosphorite.

I admit to taking the bulk of this information from Wikipedia, but I have at least tried to re-write the data where I could to simplify it.

Andrew Joseph
PS: Image above, is of course the Seven Dwarfs of Disney's Snow White fame. Shouldn't it be the Seven Dwarves? Or Seven Little People?

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