Ashio Mining Pollution (足尾鉱毒事件)
Ashio Mining Pollution was a pollution incident which occurred at Ashio copper mine located around Watarase-gawa River in Tochigi Prefecture and Gunma Prefecture at the end of the 19th and the beginning of the 20th century. That was the origin of pollution which occurred in Japan in the late Meiji period. Ashio Kodoku Jiken (Ashio Mining Pollution) is often referred to as Ashio Dozan Kodoku Jiken (Ashio copper mine Mining Pollution). It was caused by Furukawa Kogyo (mining) (modern Furukawa Co., Ltd.).
Modernization of Mine
In the present Ashio district, Nikko City, Tochigi Prefecture, copper mines had been mined since the Edo period; after reaching its peak in the early Edo period, the output kept declining, and by the end of the Edo period, the mines were almost abandoned and nationalized.
After the Meiji Restoration, the mines were sold to private management and run by Ichibei FURUKAWA from 1877. Furukawa promoted the modernization of mining operations, and rich deposits were discovered by 1885. As a result of the introduction of Western modern mining technology, Ashio copper mine became Japan's largest copper producer and became the largest in East Asia which produced thousands of tons annually. At that time, copper was one of Japan's major exports with 1/4 of the national output coming from Ashio copper mine. Ironically the smoke from the refining process, mineral poison gas generated during purification (mainly sulphur dioxide) and mineral poison contained in the waste water (mainly metal ions such as copper ions) caused great environmental damage.
Occurrence of Mining Pollution
The mountains in the then Ashio-machi area became barren because of the mineral poison gas and the acid rain caused by it. The lands, which had lost trees and became poor, disappeared by landslides one after another. These landslides continue to this day (2009). The earth and sand from the landslides were carried by Watarase-gawa River and accumulated in the lower river. This has caused Watarase-gawa River to have a raised bed near Ashikaga City and brought devastation to the forests in Ashio, and when hit by Typhoon Kathleen, it became the major cause of the flood.
The symptom of the mining pollution appeared first as a large number of ayu (sweetfish) died in Watarase-gawa River in 1885. However, at that time the cause was unclear; and in Choya Shinbun, the newspaper that first reported the incident on August 12, reported ambiguously that Ashio copper mine may have caused it. On October 31 of the same year, Shimotsuke Shinbun (newspaper) reported that trees in Ashio area had been dying since about the previous year; and those two articles are considered to have been the first reports linking the Ashio copper mine and the pollution.
Spread of Damage
The next damage appeared as rice crops died in the fields that had been drawing water from Watarase-gawa River and in the fields where earth and sand from Ashio had accumulated after the flood.
The outraged farmers raised riots several times
Shozo TANAKA is famous as the central figure of the farmers' movement at this time. This mining pollution not only affected Watarase-gawa River Basin but also spread across the Gyotoku area through Edo-gawa River and across the Kasumigaura area through Tone-gawa River. Especially heavy damages to the fields were caused by the four major floods which struck on August of 1890, on July 21 and August 17 and September 8 of 1896.
According to the survey by Yoshinao KOZAI and others in 1892, the main mineral poison consisted of compounds of copper, iron oxide and sulfuric acid.
In 1901, Matsuki Village adjoining Ashio-machi was abandoned because of the damage by the smoke. In addition, Kuzo Village and Nitamoto Village adjacent to Matsuki Village were abandoned about the same time.
After the construction, detailed below, of measures between 1897 and 1927 were carried out, prominent damages by the mining pollution were reduced. However, the poisons from the mines were not stopped from flowing into Watarase-gawa River. It is said that unlike other areas, Morita Village (present Morita, Ota City), Yamada County, Gunma Prefecture and its surroundings, where the water for fields had been drawn directly from Watarase-gawa River, had an increase in damage by the mining pollution after the Taisho period. In 1971 shipments from Morita were suspended as cadmium had been detected in rice harvested there. Furukawa Kogyo (Mining) did not admit to having caused the cadmium damage, however they were held responsible by the Gunma Prefectural government.
Closure of the Mine
Ashio's copper mines were depleted by 1973 and closed, causing the pollution to decrease. However, the ore refinery operations continued until 1980, and the mineral poison kept pouring into the rivers thereafter. It is explained that because from 1989 JR Ashio Line no longer carried cargo and the imports of the raw material ore were reduced, the mining pollution was decreased.
However, because very little scientific analysis has been carried out in any period, the real conditions of the pollution cannot be explained.
There is one thing clear about the amount of the mineral poison; according to the measurement facility that the Environment Agency had established in 1972 in Ashio-machi, the levels of the concentration of sulfur dioxide exceeded the (old) environmental standards. Although Ashio-machi had one measurement facility, the concentration measured by the facility was above the pollution standard; and in the same year, Ashio-machi was only one town which all the concentrations measured by facilities of one town were above the standard (however, it is not specified in the environmental white paper of the year that it was a damage by mining pollution). On September 7, 1981, twice the standard level of copper and three times the value of the agreement level of copper was detected from wastewater discharged from the Nakasai water treatment plant in Ashio-machi. In addition, there remain other records measured by Morita-mura mining pollution eradication association.
According to the record by the office of mining pollution of Gunma and Tochigi prefectures in 1899, deaths and stillbirths due to the mining pollution were estimated to be 1064. It was the result number which simply subtracted the number of births from the number of deaths in the areas affected by the mining pollution. Ryukai MATSUMOTO says that it may not be said all the deaths were caused by the mining pollution, however, since there were a greater number of deaths than births while there were more births than deaths in Japan at that time, those deaths should be considered to have been caused by the mining pollution (it is considered that in fact among those deaths, many cases were caused by malnutrition, since the people became poor by the mining pollution; however Shozo TANAKA and Matsumoto and others said that those cases should be counted as the victims by the mining pollution). This number was used when Shozo TANAKA was summoned to the hearing at the Diet.
The office of mining pollution pointed out that the stillbirth rate of the then Funatsugawa area of Ueno Village, Aso County (present Funatsugawa-cho, Sano City), which was one of heavily polluted areas, clearly exceeded the national average. In "Ashio Kodoku Sanjo Gaho" (Reports and Pictures of Ashio Mining Pollution) (1901), Ryukai MATSUMOTO revealed the horrifying fact that in five years there had been only two men who had passed the medical for the draft (there were fifty people who met the age for the draft) in Takayama of Sakai Village, Aso County (present Takayama-cho, Sano City, population of approximately 800 at that time), and out of those two that passed, one was subsequently discharged on medical grounds after only ten days. In "Bokoku no Shukuzu" (The Epitome of the Perishing Nation) (1902) compiled by Gisuke SATO, Kikutei TAGUCHI refered to a doctor's story; the doctor had been working at a clinic for the victims of the mining pollution in Ebise Village, and although he had not taken statistics because he was very busy, he treated over 2,300 patients in a month and a half of them suffered from eye diseases, and he estimated they were caused by some qualities of the lands. Sozo SHIMADA, an ex-resident of Yanaka Village claimed his father and grandfather had died from a stomach illness caused by drinking the polluted water.
The Government's Measures against the Mining Pollution
Although from 1891 Shozo TANAKA frequently raised the issue of the pollution at the Diet, the government did not actively take any anti mining pollution measures. During this period, the major part of these measures was restrictions of speech and of the press, such as banning the publication immediately after issuance of a record of the mining pollution "Ashio Dozan Kodoku, Watarase-gawa-engan Jijo" (Ashio copper mine Mining Pollution, Status of Watarase-gawa River) published in 1891 by the residents of Azuma Village (Tochigi Prefecture).
The First Measure
In 1897 large numbers of peasants from the affected area went to Tokyo to protest (called 'Oshidashi', protest) and the general verdict on the company and government became negative, then, in March of the same year, the government established the Research Committee of Ashio copper mine Mining Pollution and issued several acts for preventing mining pollution. The most important measure was the third prevention order implemented in May, 1897 which mandated Furukawa to make filtration basins and deposit basins and deposit sites, and to install desulphurization equipments on chimneys. All these conditions had deadlines of several weeks, and if any one of them had been delayed, the company had to close the mine. Furukawa implemented construction non stop for 24hrs and they even used electric lighting which was still unusual in those days and they were made to complete all construction in time.
However, in fact those facilities and equipments were useless. For many years the government had been explaining that the works by the preventive measure and the renovation on Watarase-gawa River which was completed 1927 (see below) had solved the mining pollution, however, in the Environmental White Paper of 1993, they admitted that the then measures had been not enough to solve the fundamental issues.
Specifically, the filtration basins and deposit basins were broken in 1898, and the mineral poison flowed downstream again. Desulphurization equipments on the chimneys did not work due to the low level of technology of the time, and the effect was negligible.
The outflow of the mineral waste from the deposit sites had been already pointed out by the second Research Commission of the Mining Pollution of 1902 (although the committee failed to recognize the significance of it)
Some residents suffered the damage stood up to protest again the lack of effectiveness of the anti-pollution constructions and went to Tokyo with many followeres to make the third (September 1898) and the fourth (February 1900) petition (Oshidashi). In the fourth Oshidashi (petition), the peasants and the police clashed and many peasants were arrested (Kawamata Incident). However, in the autumn of the following year (1901), the effect of the construction started to be felt, and the press stated that agricultural land had made quite a recovery. For example, Tokyo Asahi (newspaper) dated October 6 reported "apart from worst hit areas, they had a large harvest." However some people point out that such report must have been based on a research at very small part of the area, as the press's researching capacity of that time was limited and they could not research all the parts of the area along Watarase-gawa River.
In addition, by the first Committee of the Mining Pollution, the tax of the residents of the damaged area was remitted. This measure was taken due to the peasants' demands, however it brought bad effects that many residents lost the right to vote, and that some villages could not have the next chiefs since nobody could not run for chief in fact (in those days it was necessary to have paid a certain amount of direct taxes to have the right to vote).
The Second Measure
After Shozo TANAKA made direct appeals to the government, popular opinion changed in the residents' favor as many groups of college students visited Ashio one after another, and the government, realizing it could become a threat, hastily set up the second Research Committee of the Mining Pollution in 1902. This committee concluded in 1903 that after the preventive measure of 1897, the mining pollution had been decreased, and they submitted a report suggesting that they should build a large, control basin near Watarase-gawa River's mouth for settling mineral poison and for preventing floods. Although the second Research Committee of the Mining Pollution, as described above, concluded that the construction by the first measure decreased the mining pollution, there was no researching result to show they had stopped the pollution.
The committee concluded 'as for the copper which damages crops, there are the residues flowed before the preventive construction, however in the current operation, the flowing poison is a little, so the government exonerates Furukawa Mining from blame' (Masaomi YUI "Tanaka Shozo"), and in fact, in October of 1903, 'the damaged area had a good crop of rice' and Shozo TANAKA also gave lectures at many places setting the title of the lecture as 'the real circumstances of the rich harvest in the damaged area' ("the complete works of Shozo TANAKA" page 477 of the "supplementary volume").
In those lectures, Shozo protested as 'the good harvest is never a result from the construction, but it is because the landslides occurred by the bad flood last year and the farmlands of the damaged area were covered with new earth.'
As of 2006, his opinion is agreed by even Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism.
On the other hand, it is said that in Yamada County of Gunma Prefecture, the mining pollution became thicker in that period. The reason is unknown, however, some researchers consider that since the method of extraction was changed to froth flotation (flotation) in the Taisho period, copper waste became smaller enough to float on the river, and that a lot of those wastes accumulated in the right side of the upper stream of Watarase-gawa River. As for the mining pollution and the protest movement in Gunma Prefecture, see below. During this period, it was reported that the mining pollution was decreased in many presses, however, some researchers consider that it was because Yamada County had not been regarded as heavily polluted area in the beginning of the mining pollution and journalists did not visit there yet.
In response to the report by the second Research Committee of the Mining Pollution, Watarase Yusuichi (Watarase Pond), the control basin for settling mineral poison was built on the prefectural borders between Tochigi, Gunma, Saitama, and Ibaraki Prefectures. Originally it was planned to be built on the Saitama Prefecture's side, however due to the heavy opposition, it was changed to be built on the Tochigi Prefecture's side. The site originally belonged to Yanaka Village, Shimotsuga County, Tochigi Prefecture, which residents had been making their living mainly from the soil.
Since Shozo TANAKA lived Yanaka Village and the village was the stronghold of the movement against the pollution, people said that the plan had been made to crush the movement. Yanaka Village fiercely resisted, and rejected the proposal of the merger with its neighbor town, Fujioka-machi. In 1906, Yanaka Village was ceased to exist by the order and merged into Fujioka-machi. In addition, during this period, the river works was done on Watarase-gawa River.
From 1910 to 1927, on Watarase-gawa River were done the large-scale river works such as changing the whole ex-Yanaka Village into a control basin and diverting the stream of Watarase-gawa River; and in fact, those works decreased floods. However, it did not stop earth and sand flowing down from the mountain of Ashio to accumulate downstream. Besides, it just decreased the mining pollution at the area along the lower river, and from the mines, the mineral poison kept pouring. As described above, in 1993, the government acknowledged for the first time that those measures they had taken at that time had not been enough to solve the pollution.
After the War
After Typhoon Kathleen in 1947, the government built banks all around Watarase-gawa River. Until completing the banks, it took about twenty years. After the completion of the banks, any bad flood of Watarase-gawa River has not struck the area.
In 1960, in order to prevent soil erosion, a bosa-dam (dam for preventing soil erosion), Ashio Dam (also known as Misawa Goryu Dam, literally, Misawa Meeting Dam) was built in Ashio-machi. It was the largest bosa-dam built along a river of the Tone-gawa River system, with the capacity of five million cubic meters. It is also said to be the largest bosa-dam in Japan. As of 2003, sand has accumulated to 67 percent of the capacity.
A multipurpose dam, Kusaki Dam was built in Azuma Village, Seta County, Gunma Prefecture (present Seta County, Gunma Prefecture), along the upper stream of Watarase-gawa River mainly for controlling flood of Watarase-gawa River and for supply of water for the metropolitan area (completed in 1977).
This dam had not been for controlling mining pollution, however, after Eiichiro KONDO, a member of the House of Councilors (at that time) enquired at the committee of commerce and industry, it was concluded that 'it is especially important to keep water quality of this dam.'
So they adopted a new filter roller of semi-cylindrical form with a lot of layers to prevent mineral poison from pouring into rivers and streams. This dam has been constantly being tested for its water quality and the results have been published, and these kinds of multi-purpose dams are rare in Japan. Probably because the completion of construction was after the closure of the mines, abnormal values in the water quality tests have not been often detected.
In July 30, 1976, Gunma Prefecture, Tochigi Prefecture, Kiryu City and Ota City made a pollution control agreement with Furukawa Mining. However, the Association of Mining Pollution Eradication in Morita (see below) refused to join the agreement. Based on this agreement, water quality tests and other surveys have been conducted. Land improvements of the agricultural land in the affected areas were implemented after the conclusion of the pollution control agreement (see below).
By the way, in 2005 Gunma Prefecture pointed out the water quality tests based on the agreement showed that water from the deposit site had exceeded the environmental standards sometimes during rainfall.
The Meiji Period
The movement against the mining pollution became strong particularly in present Sano City and Fujioka-machi in Tochigi Prefecture. The first movement developed in 1890 as the association of Azuma Village, Ashikaga County, Tochigi Prefecture (present Azuma district of Sano City) resolved to ask the company to suspend the operations of Ashio mines.
Shozo TANAKA, a member of the House of Representatives from Sano made enquiries at the parliament beginning in 1891, and the damages by the mining pollution became public throughout the nation. Tochigi Prefecture conducted a meeting of arbitration of the mining pollution, and offered a composition that the Furukawa side should pay money to the peasants in around 1893 and carry out some measures to eliminate the pollution by the end of June, 1896. Against the composition, Shozo TANAKA held a demonstration to stop the victims. However, by the floods of 1896, damages from the mining pollution spread, and it revealed the fact that no measures had been taken, and the peasants negotiated again with the company using the agreement of composition for the evidence. In this negotiation, the Furukawa side changed their policy to offer a final composition that they would give some money and in return demand the abandonment of the right in the future to claim against them for damages by the mining pollution. Based on the compositions, the company had explained that they had not had any problem of the mining pollution after that. However, in fact, some peasants refused to accept money and the movement against the mining pollution continued after that.
According to Eizaburo MORINAGA, in 1893, for the composition with a term of validity, Ichibei FURUKAWA (Furukawa Mining) paid 76,602 yen 96 sen 9 ri ('sen' and 'ri' were monetary units used at that time) to 8,414 peasants for the damaged areas of 4,360 cho 96 ho 6 bu (about 4,360 hectares), and in 1896, for the final composition, Furukawa paid 30,119 yen 23 sen 2 rin to 5,127 peasants for the damaged areas of 2,207 cho 43 ho 14 bu (about 2,207 hectares). According to Morinaga's calculations, at the composition in 1893, 1 yen 75 sen were paid for 1 tan (about 10 are) on the average, and at the composition in 1896, 1 yen 54 sen were paid for 1 tan on the average.
The movement against the pollution gathered pace after the floods in 1896, and October 4, under the leadership of Shozo TANAKA, the mining pollution office of Tochigi Prefecture and Gunma Prefecture was estavlished in Unryu-ji Temple in Watarase Village, Oura County, Gunma Prefecture (present Shimohayakawada-cho, Tatebayashi City). After that, the farmers and peasants used the office to band together against the company. And after that, actual collisions came to take place between the peasants who were going to make petitions in Tokyo and the police. Although in those days people did not call such a action including petition by a specific name, the peasants called it 'Oshidashi' (literally, 'pushing'). According to Satoru FUKAWA, the victims made large-scale Oshidashi six times in the Meiji period (March 2, 1897; March 24, 1897; September 26, 1898; February 13, 1900; February 19, 1902; March 2, 1902). At the third Oshidashi, Tanaka (Shozo), who was a member of the House of Representatives and belonged to the ruling party at that time, persuaded the group of peasants and followers away from the direct petition, and most of them went home, however immediately after that, the government collapsed. And Tanaka persuaded the victims to make a kind of assembly (called the mining pollution assembly) in the damaged areas, Tochigi and Gunma Prefectures, to make the fourth Oshidashi.
As for Oshidashi, also refer to 'Kawamata Incident.'
In 1896, Gunma Prefectural Assembly decided to demand Ashio copper mine to close down operations ("The Proposal for the Issue of the Mining Pollution"). Tochigi Prefectural Assembly had already decide to demand the research in Ashio copper mine in 1890, however, because Tochigi was not only the damaged area but also the base of the company possessing Ashio copper mine, the issue became complicated in the assembly, and in 1896 they did not decided anything concerning the mining pollution.
In the middle of the wars including the Sino-Japanese War and the Russo-Japanese War, the government could not stop operations at the mines, and in order to stop the victims' protest, they decided to close Yanaka Village and in 1907 executed the destruction of the village. After that, the villagers moved to the neighboring Fujioka-cho, the area of present Itakura-machi in Gunma Prefecture, other towns and villages in Shimotsuga County, Koga-cho (present Koga City), Nasu County, and Saroma-cho in Tokoro County in Hokkaido. Although people, who had not lived in Yanaka Village, also moved to such towns at that time, the measures of the movement and acceptance had been originally to relieve the ex-residents of Yanaka Village. By the way, after the villager had moved to Hokkaido, an area in Saroma-cho (in Tokoro County, Hokkaido) was named 'Tochigi' after their hometown. Some villagers refused to move out, and after the destruction of Yanaka Village, they stayed in the remains of their houses. However, in 1917 every resident including such resistant had left the village after all.
The movement against the mining pollution was gradually weakened due to the closure of Yanaka Village and the decrease of floods as the results of the large-scale constructions along Watarase-gawa River, and especially after 1902 when there was a good harvest in the damaged areas including Ashikaga County, Yanada County, Aso County, Shimotsuga County, Oura County, the movement became very weak. And after the central figure of the movement, Shozo TANAKA died in 1913, the movement also almost died. However, in Yamada County of Gunma Prefecture, the mining pollution kept causing damages and residents of the area kept the movement against the pollution (see below).
Movement in Ashio-machi
The residents in Akakura area of Ashio-machi which damaged by air pollution by the mines' smoke formed the air pollution committee in 1920. They negotiated directly with Furukawa Mining. However, many were making a living through business with the copper mine and the movement never gained significant support. In the end, only a few of them, who had not done any business with the copper mine, managed to get compensation, however it led to division in the town.
The Taisho, Showa, Heisei Periods
The unions of the areas which had drawn water for fields from Watarase-gawa River on the right of the midstream, including the Common Water Supply Union of Machi-Yaba Ryozeki (present Machi-Yaba Twin Weir System Land Improvement District which had supplied water mainly to Yamada County and Oura County in Gunma Prefecture), and the Common Water Supply Union of Mikuriya Yosui (present Mikuriya Water Land Improvement District), did not make a final composition (with the condition that they should abandon every right to demand or negotiate after the composition in exchange for some money) with the Furukawa side, and instead of that, they made the composition with the term of validity and the renewal of the composition several times. However, in 1902 and 1904, the Furukawa side did not make the renewal of the composition explaining that the conditions had changed. Those two unions often carried out on-the-spot investigation in Ashio to calculate the compensation. In 1917, the Common Water Supply Union of Machi-Yaba Ryozeki submitted papers to the governor of Gunma Prefecture to point out that the mining pollution was still tainting Watarase-gawa River.
In 1924, those areas was hit by a drought, and both unions considered it was because the damaged forests had no longer absorbed nor contained water; although the unions took action separately, in 1925 the petition including thousands of signatures of the farmers and peasants and others in Gunma Prefecture was submitted to the House of Peers, the House of Representatives, the Minister of Home Affairs and the Minister of Agricultural Affairs.
The petition was mainly to ask for the authorities' permission that the victims claimed compensation for the damage by the mining pollution (in those days, since plaintiffs had the burden of proof, the victims had no chance of winning in court)
This demand was accepted in 1939.
On the other hand, the union of Mikuriya Yosui submitted a petition to the Minister of Home Affairs, the Minister of Agriculture and Forestry, and the Minister of Commerce and Industry, asking for regulation of mining and revision of the laws of mining
The petitions with the same contents were submitted nearly every year from 1926 until 1933. By the way, those two unions sometimes took some actions together in that period.
In 1936, the union of Mikuriya Yosui managed to get 85,000 yen from Furukawa Mining as funds for the project to improve the intake; before the works, they had drawn water directly from Watarase-gawa River, however, after the works, they began to draw water from the undercurrent. At that time, the Furukawa side demanded a final composition (with the condition that the victims should abandon every right to demand or negotiate after that in exchange of some money). The contract included the clause that the union should not demand money after that, however the works continued until the fourth construction in 1950, and ultimately the Furukawa side paid 1,190,000 yen which was 4 percents of total cost of 32,000,000 yen. In the fourth construction, the Nakagawa mineral poison settling basin was build in the mainstream of the flume (completed in 1948), and after that, the damages by the mining pollution in the lower river were reduced considerably. However, after that, the peasants kept paying the running costs and costs for new pollution-preventing system in the form of water rate which had kept being raised. Besides, although the project itself continued until 1967 when the fifth construction was finished, Furukawa did not pay for the fifth construction.
In 1938 and 1939, Watarase-gawa River had flooded greatly and the mining pollution poured into the farmlands again. In the same year, the residents formed the Watarase-gawa River Improvement Alliance in Gunma and submitted petitions to the Ministry of Home Affairs, asking improvement of Watarase-gawa River and cultivation of the source. They made petitions twenty-two times by 1940. In 1940, the government approved the budget for the project, however, it is considered that they could not carry out large repairs because it was during World War II. After the war, finally large repairs along Watarase-gawa River were carried out by the order of the government.
After that, people came to say that persons who did not cooperate with the copper production were betrayers of the country, because the increase production was demanded as a national policy, therefore the movement against the mining pollution temporarily subsided.
In 1945 World War II ended, and there were no longer controls on speeches and meetings, and in the following year, the peasants of the Watarase-gawa valley of the eastern Gunma Prefecture gathered and formed the Union for Relocation of Ashio copper mine Refinery. Soon after that, the union changed its name to the Mining Pollution Eradication Committee and began negotiations directly with Furukawa Mining. The towns and villages of the neighboring area changed the name of the Watarase-gawa River Improvement Committee in Gunma to the River Bank Mining Pollution Committee and continued the movement against the mining pollution; and in 1953 the Association of Mining Pollution Eradication temporally disappeared since it have been merged into the official committee the government had established. However, the official committee was dissolved after receiving one twentieth of the cost for the land improvement (8,000,000 yen) from Furukawa Mining. This 8 million yen was paid into the account of Machi-Yaba Twin Weir Land Improvement District (the new name of the water supply union).
The Union of Machi-Yaba Ryozeki used the money for the works to draw water from the undercurrent like the Union of Mikuriya Yosui, however, the sizes of the flumes and areas were different so that they could not draw enough water only from the undercurrent. Therefore, the Union of Machi-Yaba Ryozeki kept drawing water directly from Watarase-gawa River after the works.
However, on May 30, 1958, in Ashio-machi, the Gengorozawa accumulation site near Ottosei-iwa collapsed. The ore wastes of the site poured into Watarase-gawa River, and through the river poured into the fields of Morita Village, Yamada County, Gunma Prefecture (present Morita in Ota City) which was drawing water for fields directly from Watarase-gawa River. After that, the movement against the mining pollution became active in the area again.
On June 11, the peasants of Morita Village visited Ashio, however the Furukawa side just repeatedly disclaimed any responsibility for the damages. However, immediately after, people knew the fact that Furukawa Mining had paid the Japanese National Railways compensation for the tracks which had been damaged by the ore wastes' outflow. So the residents were outraged and on July 10, formed the Morita Village Association (later changed its name to the Morita Area Association), and to agree with them, on August 2, the Watarase-gawa River Mining Pollution Eradication Committee of Gunma Tomo Three Cities and Three Counties was formed again mainly by the peasants of three cities and three counties of Gunma Prefecture including Kiryu City, Ota City, Tatebayashi City, Nitta County, Yamada County and Oura County. Furukawa offered to pay 1.5 million yen to express their sympathy, however the residents of Morita Village refused it as they would not receive it unless Furukawa pays it as a part of their reparations. Moreover, in the negotiation process, the Furukawa side insisted that in 1953 when they had paid for the land improvement, they had made a final composition with the condition that the victims abandoned every right to demand money after that. Furukawa even showed the papers of the composition they had made at that time. Regarding this composition, in 1966, the Committee of Commerce and Industry of the House of Councilors, a member (at that time) Kazuhiro SUZUKI questioned its validity, and the representatives of the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry and of the Ministry of International Trade and Industry answered that they did not think the final composition had been valid nor was valid, since it was doubtful that the chairperson of the water supply union had had the authority to make such a composition with a company and after the composition the mining pollution had been ruining them.
In this period, the movement was led mainly by the Morita Village Association (later changed its name to the Morita Area Association) which had been formed by the residents of the most damaged area. After that, they began to use buses to do Oshidashi (the victims and the followers went to Tokyo, demonstrated and made petition to the authorities). To distinguish them from those of the Meiji period, they are called Oshidashi of the Showa period. Another cause that led to the fuelling of the movement was that Watarase-gawa River was excluded from the Water Quality Designated Rivers established by the government in the same year.
In 1962, the government established Watarase-gawa River Committee in the Council of Water Quality and offered a compromise that they would accept the chairman of the Morita Village Association as a member of the official committee if he resigned as chairman of the association, however, at the beginning the members of the Morita Village Association strongly objected it thinking the government was trying to divide the local association. Also, some people said that if the government demanded such a thing, they should demand the president of Furukawa Mining who had already participated in the committee to give up his position as the president. However, the chairman accepted the offer and resigned as the chairman, and became member of the Council of Water Quality. However, his opinions as a member of the council were mostly ignored, therefore on October 5, 1964, the local people carried out Oshidashi again. In 1968 the water-quality standard was resolved, and as for copper, they fixed it at 0.06ppm by the suggestion of the Ministry of Economic Planning. The Morita Area Association (formerly named Morita Village Association) insisted the standard must be fixed at 0.02ppm, however it was ignored.
During the argument, around September in 1966, in Ashio-machi, the Tengusawa accumulation site collapsed. Then, the mining pollution poured downstream again. However, Furukawa did not make it public. Residents of the association learned this fact through a communication from Gunma Prefecture.
In 1971, Cadmium was detected in rice harvested in Morita, and the peasants immediately demanded from Furukawa Mining 12 billion yen as compensation for the previous 80 years.
In 1972, Gunma Prefecture concluded the polluted rice crops were due to the mining pollution from the Ashio copper mine
On March 31, 971 peasants filed for arbitration to the Gunma Prefecture Pollution Council seeking compensation of 3.9 billion yen from Furukawa Mining. On April 3, the prefecture concluded the contaminated soil in Morita area was also due to the mining pollution from the Ashio copper mine. In 1974, the 359.8ha of agricultural areas were designated for the Agricultural Land with Soil Pollution Control.
On May 11, 1974, the Pollutions Investigation Committee, which had took over the arbitration from the Gunma Prefecture Pollutions Committee, settled the issue and ordered Furukawa Mining to pay 1.55 billion yen.
This was the first case that Furukawa accepted responsibility for the mining pollution and paid compensation (called 'baishokin,' however, in the contract, it says 'hoshokin' which means the money you give them as they suffer from damage, while 'baishokin' means the money you give them as you hurt them; before that, any monetary provision was not under the name of compensation but either of 'donation,' 'consolatory money 'cooperation money.')
However, Furukawa Mining acknowledged their fault only on the damages by copper but not by cadmium (the peasants did not complicate the issue by mentioning cadmium in order to reach a faster resolution.)
By the decision in the reconciliation, the works for the land improvement were carried out from 1981 to 1999.
Furukawa Mining paid 51 percents of the total cost of 4.34 billion yen of the land improvement project and the government and Gunma Prefecture paid the most of the rest (Kiryu City and Ota City also paid a fraction)
The peasants did not have to pay for the land improvement.
The opposition movements in Morita area were independent and not funded by anyone or anywhere, the peasants made their lunch packs and continued the activity which makes it different from any other movements. However, this does not mean there were no offers of assistance, but there was no mechanism for accepting support.
Immediately after the issue of Morita area was settled by arbitration, on November 18, 1974, in Kiryu City of Gunma Prefecture, the Kiryu Area Mining Pollution Committee was established, and 444 peasants participated in the negotiation with Furukawa Mining. It was settled on November 18, 1975, and Furukawa Mining admitted their fault on the damage by the copper and so on and paid 235 million yen.
On October 25, 1974, 546 peasants of the Mining Pollution Eradication Association in Niragawa area, Ota City, demanded compensation of 1.3 billion yen from Furukawa Mining. On December 1, 1976, it reached a settlement, and Furukawa Mining paid 110 million yen.
Residents who had failed to apply for compensation submitted applications to the Pollution Coordinating Committee. As for that, in December 1977, the case was settled as Furukawa paid 3.9 million yen.
In 1994, the Mining Pollution Eradication Association in Morita and the Mining Pollution Eradication Association in Niragawa merged. And they decided the new name as the Mining Pollution Eradication Association in Ota.
In 2000, 2003 and 2004, Gunma Prefecture added some fields to the Agricultural Land with Soil Pollution Control. As of 2005, the designated areas for the anti-pollution measure reach 53.74 hectares, which include damaged farmlands that there still remain damages so that they have to treat those fields as the designated areas. It is considered that the most of the areas designated after 2000 were the land which had been ignored in the cursory investigation in the 1970s.
In 2004, Kiryu City Council adopted a petition demanding the installment of an automated water intake unit in the Nakasai water treatment plant in Ashio-machi.
Plantation and Afforestation Project
In order to restore the devastated forests in the Ashio area, in 1897, the then Ministry of Agriculture and Commerce ordered plantation to Ashio, and since then a reforestation project has commenced and continues to the present (2006). However, there were a few years when there was no plantation for both the Meiji period and the early Showa period.
According to Maebashi Forest Management Office (present Kanto Regional Forest Office), the cost of afforestation (called the cost of the degraded lands' recovery) is as follows (after 1976, the afforestation project has been continuing.)
1897 - 1899: 31,111 yen
1906 - 1913: 405,917 yen
1914 - 1926: 99,590 yen
1927 - 1940: 163,484 yen
1947 - 1975: 1,659,574,000 yen
The afforestation project by Maebashi Forest Management Office has been targeting the national forests. In addition, Tochigi Prefecture has been separately operating afforestation on private properties since 1958. The most of the private properties that Tochigi Prefecture has been planting belong to Furukawa Co., Ltd. There are criticisms for such a large-scale planting for private properties using tax.
In 1988, for the afforestation projects in the Ashio area, the Maebashi Forest Management Office allocated 294 million yen and Tochigi Prefecture spent 585 million yen.
For the afforestation project in the Ashio area, in 1999, the Ministry of Construction allocated 2.03 billion yen, Tochigi Prefecture spent 800 million yen, and the Ministry of Forestry spent 250 million yen.
In addition, in 1960, Furukawa Mining paid about 3.6 million yen to the government as cooperation money for national forests restoration. The money was for the national project from 1957 to 1960, and the parties concerned in the project and the company decided that the company did not have to pay for the project before 1957.
Regarding Ashio Mining Pollution, many articles have been written from the view of the victims, however, in order to gain impartiality, arguments that Furukawa made should be introduced. However, there are only a few records of Furukawa mentioning the mining pollution.
One publication that does directly mention the mining pollution many times is "History of 100 Years of Business from Foundation" published by Furukawa Co., Ltd. (1976)
By the way, Furukawa Mining does not call mining pollution 'kodoku' (literally, 'mineral poison') but 'kogai' (literally, 'mineral damage.')
According to the book, as early as in 1740 the peasants in the areas along Watarase-gawa River made petitions for tax exemption due to mining pollution, and based on the record, Furukawa explain that such pollution issues had existed before the company began to manage the mines. Also, it states that some research revealed that there had been damages by mining pollution in 1821, although due to pressure at that time no written record exists.
Furukawa claimed that through the construction by the Mining Pollution Prevention Law by the Mining Pollution Investigation Committee (the first) and through the river improvement constructions of Watarase-gawa River carried out before the end of the Taisho period, the mining pollution issues 'were, more or less, solved' (from "History of 100 Years of Business from Foundation"). There is no description that at that time the Common Water Union of Machi-Yaba Ryozeki and others had pointed out the mining pollution.
And Furukawa (according to "History of 100 Years of Business from Foundation") 'had always, on the company's own motion, faced with' the negotiations with the Mining Pollution Eradication Association in Morita after the Gengorozawa accumulation site had collapsed (and they say that since before the negotiation, they had been facing with the mining pollution.)
It is mentioned that Furukawa Mining had made the claim for statute of limitations for their responsibilities.
It says that in the 1974 arbitration, the mining pollution issues were 'ended' (from "History of 100 Years of Business from Foundation") and yet, it is not mentioned that Furukawa Mining had not admitted their responsibility for contamination by cadmium (it does not mention the Agreement of Pollution Control made in 1976 either, however this literature was published in the same year as the agreement was made, and they might not have been able to include it in the editing process.)