The Sado complex of heritage mines, primarily gold mines

Date of Submission: 22/11/2010
Criteria: (ii)(iii)(iv)
Category: Cultural
Submitted by:
Permanent Delegation of Japan to UNESCO
State, Province or Region:
Niigata Prefecture
Coordinates: N38 2 8 E138 14 22
Ref.: 5572
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Description

The Sado complex of heritage mines, primarily gold mines (hereinafter referred to as “the Sado Mines”), is located on the island of Sado in the sea between the Japanese archipelago and the Eurasian continent. Over the course of more than four hundred years, gold and silver mining techniques and methods were constantly being introduced here from both home and abroad and then further developed at the Sado Mines. This gave rise to the formation of a cultural tradition based on an evolving set of mining technologies and mine management system. This tradition, preserved in the form of archeological sites, historic structures, and mining towns and settlements, constitutes exceedingly rare physical evidence of human history that can no longer be found at other mines in the Asian region. The history of gold and silver mining on Sado can be traced back to ancient times; placer mining at the Nishimikawa alluvial gold deposits is considered to be the oldest production method. Full-scale development began in the mid 16th century when the Tsurushi and Niibo mines were opened up using surface mining; with the discovery of the Aikawa gold and silver mine, Sado entered a golden age. At the beginning of the 17th century, the Edo shogunate assembled miners from throughout Japan, and these miners developed advanced technologies for surveying (furigane), mining (kôdôbori drilling method), and smelting (the haifuki cupellation method and the yakikin cementation method). As a result, by the mid 17th century, the Aikawa mine, one of the few mines at the time to be based on kôdôbori, came to occupy an extremely important position as the largest gold and silver mine in Japan. What is particularly significant is the fact that a series of premodern mine management system and mining-related technologies ranging from mining to smelting—for example, methods for extracting gold from silver such as the haifuki cupellation method brought in from the Iwami Ginzan Silver Mine (Shimane Prefecture) and the yakikin method as well as manufacturing-based operational formats such as the yoseseriba—were developed on Sado and took root here and that the Sado Mines served as a base from which these techniques and technical expertise were disseminated to other mines within Japan. Another important point is that at the Sado Mines a whole series of processes, not merely the mining and smelting of gold but ultimately the production of a gold coinage system, were carried out and brought to completion at a single mine. The nationalization of the Sado Mines after the Meiji Restoration of 1868 was accompanied by the vigorous introduction of Western mining technology; vertical shafts were dug and the oreconveyancing method was mechanized. Later the mines were sold to Mitsubishi Limited Partnership Company and came under private ownership. Changes and advances in technology proceeded during this period as well, and the mine continued to have a technological impact on the development of mining both in Japan and in the rest of Asia. In the early half of the 20th century, a modern flotation plant and smelting facilities were built that laid claim to being the largest in Asia; with these and other advances the mine was transformed into the most modern mining facility in Japan. Thus, the Sado Mines, which had evolved over a span of more than four hundred years through a series of mining-related technologies and mine management system primarily in the area of gold mining, formed an important underpinning for the socio-economic systems of both the Edo shogunate and the Meiji government. Moreover, because the gold produced at the Sado Mines also had a huge impact on the international economy, which was based on the gold standard, this complex of mining-related sites is also extremely important from the perspective of world history. At present, there still exist on Sado the landscapes formed by placer mining and surface mining around the Nishimikawa alluvial gold deposits and the Dôyû-no-warito outcrop as well as a group of modern mining sites represented by the Ôtate shaft, the Kitazawa flotation plant and the port at Ôma. These sites form an outstanding technological ensemble representing each stage in the introduction and development of mining technologies and mine management system from the early modern period to the modern period. The ongoing introduction and development of mining technology and technical expertise on Sado over the span of more than four hundred years has produced a cultural tradition based on a set of mining-related techniques and mine management system revolving around gold. This tradition is preserved in the archaeological sites, historic structures of the Sado Mines as well as in the mining towns and settlements that still exist. In this way, the Sado Mines, with their widely dispersed archeological sites, historic structures, and settlements related to the gold and silver mines that operated here for some four hundred years, are an outstanding example of Asian mining heritage, where it is possible to observe firsthand the changes in gold mining technologies and mine management system as well as the entire cultural tradition formed by them.

Justification of Outstanding Universal Value

The Sado complex of heritage mines, primarily gold mines have formed a cultural tradition based on an evolving set of mining-related technologies and mine management system resulting from the constant introduction of mining techniques and technical expertise from both Japan and abroad and the development of them on Sado over the course of more than four hundred years. This tradition is preserved in the assemblage of archeological sites, historic structures, and mining towns and settlements that form the Sado Mines and constitutes extremely rare physical evidence that can no longer be found at other mines in the Asian region. In particular, the landscapes around the Nishimikawa alluvial gold deposits and the Dôyû-nowarito outcrop as well as the modern mining sites, among others, are an outstanding example of a technological ensemble representing each stage in the introduction and development of miningrelated technologies and mine management system from the early modern period to the modern period. In addition, a series of premodern mining-related technologies and mine management system ranging from mining to smelting—for example, methods for extracting gold from silver such as the haifuki cupellation method brought in from the Iwami Ginzan Silver Mine and the yakikin method as well as manufacturing-based operational formats such as the yoseseriba—were transformed and developed even further after the Meiji Restoration by the introduction on Sado of Western mining technology, which would have an impact on the development of mining not only in Japan but in the rest of Asia. Moreover, the gold coinage system manufactured at the Sado Mines formed an important basis for the socio-economic system of the Edo shogunate, and the gold produced here served to underpin the Japanese government from the Meiji period on; as a result, the Sado Mines also exerted an enormous influence on the international economy, which was based on the gold standard. For the reasons stated above, the Sado Mines have Outstanding Universal Value as a rare example of mining heritage not only in Japan but in all of Asia, and they constitute a significant property that exemplifies and is in conformity with the World Heritage List.

(ii) A series of premodern mining-related technologies and mine management system ranging from mining to smelting—for example, methods for extracting gold from silver such as the haifuki cupellation method brought in from China via the Iwami Ginzan Silver Mine and the yakikin method as well as manufacturing-based operational formats such as the yoseseriba— were developed at Sado and took root here and were disseminated from here to other mines throughout Japan. These premodern mining technologies and mine management system were transformed and further developed when Western mining technology was introduced at Sado after the Meiji Restoration. This not only spurred the development of mining in the rest of Japan but had an impact as well on the development of mining in East Asia. In addition, the gold coinage system manufactured at the Sado Mines formed an important foundation for the socio-economic system of the Edo shogunate, and the gold produced here also served to underpin the Japanese government from the Meiji period on; as a result, the Sado Mines exerted an enormous influence on the international economy, which was based on the gold standard. Consequently, the Sado complex of heritage mines, primarily gold mines has played a significant role not only from the perspective of the interchange of values related to mining technologies and mine management in East Asia but also from the perspective of exchange values in the world economy.

(iii) By introducing the very latest technologies from Japan and abroad, the Sado Mines served as the engine behind gold and silver production in Japan for more than four hundred years, and the series of mining technologies and mine management system developed there formed an important basis for the socio-economic systems of both the Edo shogunate and the Meiji government. The cultural tradition based on the mining technologies and mine management system that the constant introduction and development of mining techniques and technical expertise produced is abundantly exemplified in the preserved archeological sites and historic structures of the Sado Mines as well as in the mining towns and settlements that still exist. This tradition constitutes exceedingly rare physical evidence that can no longer be found in other mines in Asia. Consequently, the Sado complex of heritage mines is a rare survival of a cultural tradition related to Asian mining technology and mine management.

(iv) The landscapes formed by placer mining and surface mining around the Nishimikawa alluvial gold deposits and the Dôyû-no-warito outcrop as well as the group of modern mine sites represented by the Ôtate shaft, the Kitazawa flotation plant, and the port of Ôma are outstanding examples of a technological ensemble that represents each stage in the evolution of mining technology and mine management from the early modern period to the modern period. Consequently, this complex is an outstanding example that, taken as a whole, illustrates significant stages in human history in the area of mining technology during the early modern and modern periods.

Statements of authenticity and/or integrity

The authenticity of the Sado complex of heritage mines, primarily gold mines is fully substantiated. The distinctive features of the cultural tradition related to mining technologies and mine management system at the Sado Mines are elucidated not only by historical research based on archeological studies and abundant documentary evidence but also by archeological features and artifacts which are preserved. The Sado Mines abundantly include physical evidence for the cultural tradition related to the mining technologies and mine management system, and the integrity of the property is fully guaranteed.

Comparison with other similar properties

Similar gold and silver mining sites already inscribed on the World Heritage List include City of Potosí (Bolivia, 1987), the Historic Town of Guanajuato and Adjacent Mines (Mexico, 1988), Mines of Rammelsberg, Historic Town of Goslar and Upper Harz Water Management System (Germany, 1992, extended in 2010), the Historic Town of Banská Štiavnica and the Technical Monuments in its Vicinity (Slovakia, 1993), Las Médulas (Spain, 1997), the Historic Centre of the Town of Goiás (Brazil, 2001), and the Iwami Ginzan Silver Mine and its Cultural Landscape (Japan, 2007). In addition, mining-related sites on the Tentative List of other Asian countries include Tongling (China); another example is Jinguashi (China/Taiwan). However, no comparable property exists in Asia that illustrates the process of accretion by which a cultural tradition related to mine management and the development of mining techniques for the mining of gold and silver ore evolved over four hundred years.