The Iwami Ginzan was a silver mine in the city of Ōda, Shimane Prefecture, on the main island of Honshū, Japan. It was the largest silver mine in Japanese history. It was active for almost four hundred years, since its discovery in 1526 until its eventual closing in 1923. It was added to the World Heritage List in 2007.
It was developed in 1526 by Kamiya Jutei, a Japanese merchant. It reached its peak production in the early 17th century of approximately 38 tons of silver a year which was then one third of the world's production. Silver from the mine was used widely for coins. It was contested fiercely by warlords until the Tokugawa Shogunate won control of it in 1600 as a result of the Battle of Sekigahara in 1600. It was later secured by fences and barricaded by pine trees. Yamabuki Castle was built in the centre of the complex. Silver production from the mine fell in the nineteenth century as it had trouble competing with mines elsewhere. Then in exchange for silver some kinds of mineral like copper had been mainly mined in the mountain. The mine was eventually closed in 1923.
Influence To Economy
Iwami Ginzan Silver Mine played a pivotal role in East Asian trade, where silver was the key currency. In Europe and China, the mine had been known as the largest silver mine that could compare with the Cerro Rico in Potosí (now the World Heritage Site in Bolivia). In foreign countries, because the silver mined at Iwami Ginzan was very high quality, it came to be known as one of the Japanese brand of silver called "Soma Silver". The name derived from the village of Sama (Soma) in which the mine was. This silver was given the highest trading credit in East Asia. From 17th century, the silver coin made of the silver of the mine had been traded as not only one of the basic currencies in Japan but also as the currency in the trade with China, Portugal and the Netherlands.
World Heritage Site
Parts of the mining town remain in good condition and the Japanese Government has designated it as a Special Preservation District for Groups of Historic Buildings in 1969. The government also applied for it to become a World Heritage Site. The bid succeeded in July 2007, although an evaluation of the site by the International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOSMOS) found no "outstanding universal value."
While the development of a silver mine usually requires large quantities of lumber, the development of Iwami Ginzan Silver Mine resulted in less ecological pollution because of proper control of logging. It was one of the reasons that Iwami Ginzan Silver Mine was selected as a World Heritage Site. It was also selected as 100 greatest geological sites of Japan in 2007.