Controversial Sado mine proposed for UNESCO nod

The Yomiuri Shimbun
The site of the former Sado gold mine in Niigata Prefecture, is being supported for designation as a World Heritage site.

TOKYO (Jiji Press) — A government panel proposed Tuesday that a gold mine site on the island of Sado, Niigata Prefecture, be a candidate for the 2023 UNESCO World Heritage designation.

But in a rare move, the Cultural Affairs Agency released a statement saying that the candidate selection by the Council for Cultural Affairs does not mean that the government has decided to recommend the site to UNESCO.

The agency said that the government will consider the matter comprehensively.

Under ordinary circumstances, the Japanese government would submit a recommendation to UNESCO by Feb. 1 next year after obtaining approval from related ministries and agencies and the Cabinet.

As South Korea claims that workers from the Korean Peninsula were forced to work at the Sado mines, however, it is unclear whether the Japanese government will recommend the site for World Heritage listing.

The site includes the Nishimikawa gold mine and other mines. In a draft recommendation for World Heritage designation, the Niigata prefectural government and others said that the Sado site had developed a large-scale gold production system during the Edo period (1603-1867) in a traditional manual industry different from that in Europe.

The Council for Cultural Affairs started work in August to select candidates to recommend for 2023 World Heritage designation. The council said that the Sado mine site’s outstanding universal value will likely be accepted by UNESCO.

Following the council’s recommendation, a spokesperson for South Korea’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement that the move is lamentable, adding that the country requests Japan to cancel its efforts for World Heritage designation immediately.

South Korea is determined to ensure that the Sado site is not listed as a World Heritage site without an adequate explanation from Japan about people who worked at the mines, the spokesperson said.