Besshi Copper Mine
The History of the Besshi Copper Mine
Sumitomo operated the Besshi Copper Mine for 283 years from its beginning in 1691 on the south side of the Dozan Ridge (1291m above sea level). It was the world’s No.1 copper producing mine in the latter half of the 1690s. During the Edo era (1603-1867), the Tokugawa Shogunate used copper for foreign trade settlements, so the mine, which provided about a quarter or a third of that copper, was a major contributor to the Shogunate treasury at the time.
In the Meiji era (1868-1912), Saihei Hirose, general manager of the Besshi Copper Mine from 1865 to 1872 expedited the modernization of the mine by introducing new technology from abroad.
As the mining moved to deeper levels, the main office of the mine also moved down the mountain. In 1930, it was placed at Hadeba, a town at the foot of the mountain.
However, when the operation reached 1000m below sea level, the mine was forced to close due to high rock pressure and temperature. By the time of its closure in 1973, the mine had produced 650,000 tons of copper.
Many companies stem from the mine and have contributed greatly to the development of Niihama today.
Tunnel of Joy
Niihama is blessed with much natural beauty. It faces the Seto Inland Sea with numerous islands to the north and the soaring Shikoku Mountains back it to the south.
The 1691 opening of the Besshi Copper Mine changed a small fishing and farming village into a major industrial city on Shikoku. Today, machinery, chemical, refining, and electric power industries, which mainly originated from the mine, form an active coastal industrial zone in Niihama.
The mine was closed in 1973 leaving a unique industrial heritage with many historical landmarks.
Niihama is also noted for its Taiko Festival which is held every October. The festival fascinates many spectators with its brilliance and displays of strength.
Niihama has a population of about 130,000 and is about 234km2 in area.
Besshi Copper Mine Memorial Museum
The Besshi Copper Mine Memorial Museum was built in 1975 to convey the significance of the mine to future generations. It is one of the most distinguished mine museums inJapan. Inside the museum a model of the surface facilities of the mine, as well as a wide range of materials related to the mine, are exhibited.
The building, which has a unique semi-underground structure, is designed to resemble the interior of a mine. Azaleas are planted on the roof of the museum and can be seen in full bloom in May. Exhibited outside the museum is a steam locomotive that ran at Besshi on Japan’s first mountain mine railway.
Azaleas covering the roof of the museum
Three-dimensional model of a vertical section of the mine
9:00〜16:00 No admission charge
Closed Mondays Closed aii national holidays as well as
Oct.17 and Dec.29 through Jan.3
10 minutes from JR Niihama station by car or bus
From 1691 to 1916, the main mining area was located on the south side of the Dozan Ridge (1291m above sea level). The area is now called Old Besshi.
If one climbs up from the entrance of Old Besshi, the remains of a distillery, a school, a theater, the first tunnel, a road for oxcarts and a Shinto shrine can still be seen among the trees. One can imagine the prosperity enjoyed by the thousands of people who lived on the mountain and how life must have been here during this time.
Remains of a theater