Japan to delay recommending Sado Gold Mine for World Heritage list

Yomiuri Shimbun file photo
The site of the former Sado Gold Mine in Niigata Prefecture

The government intends to put off recommending the Sado Gold Mine as a possible UNESCO World Heritage site, on the grounds that opposition from South Korea is likely to jeopardize the site’s designation at a 2023 meeting, The Yomiuri Shimbun has learned.

An official decision will be made as early as next week, according to several government sources.

The site of the former gold mine in the island city of Sado, Niigata Prefecture, was chosen in December as a domestic candidate for a World Heritage site by the Council for Cultural Affairs, an expert panel of the Cultural Affairs Agency.

There is no precedent for a candidate site being rejected by the UNESCO World Heritage Committee and then being added to the World Heritage list at a later time. The Japan government is therefore aiming to get a nod for the Sado Gold Mine in 2024 or later, according to the sources.

South Korea has opposed Japan’s move to recommend the mine, claiming that Koreans were forced to work there.

UNESCO introduced a framework for its Memory of the World Register last year under which countries concerned can raise objections to a candidate. The measure was led by the Japanese government, after it opposed the addition of China’s “Documents of Nanjing Massacre.”

The Foreign Ministry believes that Japan would be placed in the opposite position if it recommends the Sado Gold Mine as a World Heritage site amid pushback from South Korea. The ministry also thinks that such a move would undermine the international community’s trust in Japan, according to the sources.

When the gold mine was chosen by the Cultural Affairs Agency’s expert panel, the agency said the move “does not mean that the government has decided to recommend the site [to UNESCO]” and that it would “consider the matter comprehensively.”