MINES AND MINERAL RESOURCES.BY far the best statements of Japan's mineral wealth are presented in the Report of Mr. F. R. Plunkett, of the British Legation, to Sir Harry Parkes, and published in The Japan Weekly Mail of January 27th, 1876. Most of the matter given below is from official data. "In almost every portion of Japan are found ores of some kind, and there is scarcely a district in which there are not traces of mines having been worked. Most of these, however, are abandoned, or worked in a very slovenly manner." The methods still pursued are, with few exception, the same as those followed in ancient times. Mines are still attacked by adits. The Japanese hardly ever sink a shaft; and as the water gains upon the miners, the mine is abandoned. No mines can be worked without special license of the Government, and foreigners are excluded from any and all participation in the mining industry of the country. No foreigner can hold a share in a mine, nor lend money on the security of a mine. Foreigners may, however, be employed as engineers, and a number are already in such employment.
The mining laws of Japan are based on those of Prussia and Spain. Twentythree foreigners, mostly Europeans, the superintendent being Mr. H. Godfrey, are in the service of the Mining Department; and a number of natives have begun to study the modern systems of engineering, both practically at home, in America and Europe, and in the Imperial College of Engineering, in Tōkiō.
The right to work a mine does not belong to the owner of' the soil; for in Japan possession of the surface does not carry with it the right to the mineral wealth below. That belongs by law to the Government, which exacts from the worker of the ores a varying royalty, and a surface rent of one yen per eighteen thousand square feet, for all mines except iron and coal, which pay half the sum. The ordinary land tax is also charged to the miner.
The Dutch and Portuguese in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries exported from Japan precious metals as follows:
From 1609 to 1858, 206,253 tons of copper were exported by the Dutch. The yearly average of Dutch trade at Déshima was £660,000.
Gold was first discovered in Japan A. D. 749. As Japan was closed to the world, the gold remained in the country, and augmented every year. Its abundance was thus no test of the relative wealth of the country. The relative value of gold to silver was, until 1860, as 6 to 1. Japan seems to be fairly well, but not richly, provided with mineral wealth. Below are tables from Mr. Plunkett's Report, which relates only to Hondo, Kiushiu, and Shikoku.