Japan Table of Contents
Mining was a rapidly declining industry in the 1980s. Domestic coal production shrank from a peak of 55 million tons in 1960 to slightly more than 16 million tons in 1985, while coal imports grew to nearly 91 million tons in 1987. Domestic coal mining companies faced cheap coal imports and high production costs, which caused them chronic deficits in the 1980s. In the late 1980s, Japan's approximately 1 million tons of coal reserves were mostly hard coal used for coking. Most of the coal Japan consumed is used to produce electric power.
Japanese coal is found at the extreme ends of the country, in Hokkaido and Kyushu, which have, respectively, 45 and 40 percent of the country's coal deposits. Kyushu's coal is generally of poor quality and hard to extract, but the proximity of the Kyushu mines to ports facilitates transportation. In Hokkaido, the coal seams are wider and can be worked mechanically, and the quality of the coal is good. Unfortunately, these mines are located well inland, making transportation difficult. In most Japanese coal mines, inclined galleries, which extended in some places to 9.7 kilometers underground, were used instead of pits. This arrangement is costly, despite the installation of moving platforms. The result is that a miner's daily output is far less than in Western Europe and the United States and domestic coal costs far more than imported coal.
Data as of January 1994