Journey to Sumitomo’s RootsSumitomo’s Philosophy Flourishes Today

The Besshi Copper Mines shaped Sumitomo Group’s development. In Niihama, Ehime Prefecture, where the mines once flourished, we will introduce our predecessors’ aspirations and Sumitomo Group’s fruitful relations with local communities. The Sumitomo story is mirrored in an extraordinary industrial heritage. Through six vivid episodes, from environmental, societal, and economic perspectives, explore the value Sumitomo has created up to the present.

Speaker: Teruaki Sueoka, Research Advisor, Sumitomo Historical Archives
Navigator: Saya Nomura, freelance reporter
Cooperation and materials provided by: Niihama City, Ehime Prefecture; Hirose Memorial Museum; Besshi Copper Mine Memorial Museum; Sumitomo Chemical Historical Materials Museum; Sumitomo Historical Archives

Part 1. Birth of the Besshi Copper Mines that Shaped Sumitomo’s Development

Inaugurated in 1691, the Besshi Copper Mines developed rapidly thanks to their rich ore deposits. The video traces the footsteps of our predecessors who succeeded in laying the foundation of Sumitomo’s prosperity, despite the rigors of the natural environment and technological challenges along the way.

Part 2. Dawn of Besshi’s Modernization

During the Meiji Era, in the context of the government’s policy of promoting industrial development, Sumitomo transformed the Besshi Copper Mines.
Under the leadership of first Director-General Saihei Hirose, the comprehensive modernization of the Besshi Copper Mines was accomplished in little more than a decade.

Part 3. Sincerely Responding to Smoke Pollution and Flooding

Early to modernize its mining and smelting operations, Sumitomo was also ahead of the times in championing environmental protection at the Besshi Copper Mines.
Find out how our predecessors restored the landscape of the Besshi mountains, deforested and ravaged by mining operations, to its former forested natural splendor.

Part 4. Advent of the Era of Electricity and Environmentalism

Power plants were constructed at Hadeba in projects championed by Teigo Iba and Masaya Suzuki amid the continuing expansion and growing prosperity of the Besshi Copper Mines.
Guided by Sumitomo’s business philosophy, our predecessors were eventually able to solve the pollution problem that accompanied development of the Besshi Copper Mines.

Part 5. Coexistence with Local Communities: Niihama

Niihama enjoyed growing prosperity as a critical mass of industrial plants, whose products were directly of indirectly related to copper mining, was established there.
Mindful of the prospect of the mines’ eventual closure, Kageji Washio, head of the Besshi Copper Mines, drew up plans to ensure local communities would prosper in a post-mining future.

Part 6. What the Industrial Heritage Tells Us

Having fulfilled their destiny, the Besshi Copper Mines now lie silent in sweet repose.
As well as being eloquent testimony to past glory, the industrial heritage teaches us the importance of bequeathing our predecessors’ values to each successive generation in the unfolding Sumitomo story.