Corporate Social Responsibility

The Roots of CSR in the JX Nippon Mining & Metals Group

Living in harmony with local communities and protecting our greatest asset—our employees

The roots of the JX Nippon Mining & Metals Group's CSR go back to where JX Nippon Mining & Metals was founded—the Hitachi Mine (in Ibaraki Prefecture), first developed more than 110 years ago. Throughout the process of working to resolve the problem of smoke pollution at the Hitachi Mine, the Company maintained its stance of promoting community involvement and development as it strove to develop its business. It also created an environment in which mine employees could work with peace of mind and cultivated an ethos of respect for its employees. This approach was ahead of its time in the early days, but it lives on in the Group of today.

Living in Harmony with Local Communities

The early years of the mining industry—the smoke pollution problem

The early history of Japan's mining industry at the beginning of the 20th century was also the history of the problem of smoke pollution. At the time, there was no established technology to effectively recover the sulfur dioxide emitted from smelting. The Hitachi Mine was no exception and the smoke it emitted, which contained sulfur dioxide, caused withering of trees in the surrounding forests and damage to crops over an increasingly wide area.
The management of the Hitachi Mine addressed this challenge by acting in good faith toward the local residents. They paid damage compensation and worked on measures to address the issue, such as effectively dispersing or diluting the sulfur dioxide that was the source of the smoke. However, they initially met with no obvious success; indeed, the damage increased and eventually placed the continued operation of the mine in jeopardy.

Staking the future of the Company on the construction of the 155.7-meter giant stack

The world's tallest smokestack in its day

The Company's founder Fusanosuke Kuhara had his back against the wall, but the solution he put forward was to minimize the effects of the smoke pollution by building what at the time was the world's tallest smokestack in order to disperse the smoke over a wide area.
This method was based on an analysis of a variety of scientific data, but it was regarded as being too far removed from the accepted methods for dealing with smoke pollution at that time, and it attracted widespread opposition within industry, government, and academic circles. Nonetheless, Kuhara faced down the opposition and decided to proceed.
Construction of the giant stack required a total of about 37,000 workers and a massive financial investment; without a doubt, the project put the future of the Company at stake. But December 1914 heralded the completion of the 155.7-meter giant stack—then the tallest in the world—and as a result the smoke pollution reduced dramatically.

Embarking on tree-planting programs to reforest the devastated mountains

Planting Oshima cherry trees

The next project the Hitachi Mine undertook for the local community was to embark on full-scale tree-planting programs to restore forests to the surrounding mountains that had been devastated by smoke pollution. It set up an agricultural testing station near its smelter and stationed a forestry expert there to cultivate smoke-resistant trees and crops. The resulting saplings were not only planted in forestland owned by the Hitachi Mine but also distributed to local residents free of charge. Subsequently, the saplings were distributed for planting elsewhere, including in the housing and school areas provided for employees and their children, along roads, by the mine railway tracks, and eventually within the city itself.

The first smoke-resistant tree developed was the Oshima cherry. During the 15 years between 1917 and 1929, the Hitachi Mine planted five million saplings. These included 3.3 million Oshima cherry trees, which are said to have eventually covered a total area of about 1,200 hectares. Another five million saplings were planted by local residents, bringing the combined total including trees planted by the mine to 10 million.

The Hitachi giant stack: still a symbol of community building

Hitachi cherry blossom festival

The giant stack today

Every year in April, the streets of Hitachi turn pink with cherry blossoms, making it famous throughout Japan as "the city of cherry trees." In retrospect, the construction of the giant stack and the planting of cherry trees were perhaps the main driving forces that delivered the local residents from the suffering caused by the early smoke pollution into the happiness of the city filled with blossoms that they enjoy today. Ever since the founding of the Hitachi Mine, our CSR activities have been rooted in the ethos of living in harmony with local communities, and the city of Hitachi we see today bears testament to the fact that this ethos has survived for over a hundred years.

In 1993, the giant stack suddenly collapsed, leaving only the bottom one-third in place. The repaired stack currently stands at a height of 54 meters, but its presence as a symbol of Hitachi continues to this day.

In the words of the mayor of Hitachi at the time, "The scale of the giant stack represented the scale of our predecessors' aspirations. Even if the stack itself doesn't look the same, the spirit of community building that it stands for remains as strong as ever."

Protecting Our Greatest Asset—Our Employees

Hitachi Mine was a community as well as a workplace

A Company store for Hitachi Mine employees

Another CSR legacy on which the Group is founded is protecting our greatest asset—our employees.

Kuhara realized that to achieve business success at the Hitachi Mine, which was located in an area distant from urban regions, it would be important to provide an environment in which employees could work with peace of mind. He therefore focused his efforts on raising the standard of living at the mine, and set about putting in place the infrastructure to enable employees to live with their families.He accordingly built an entire community, providing not only housing but also schools, hospitals, railroads, and recreational facilities.

In this town that combined work and home, employees shared their joys and sorrows with each other, nurturing a sense of togetherness, while a spirit of respect for employees took root within the Company itself.
This philosophy lives on in the Group even today. Guided by these principles, we maintain an open, supportive working environment in which employees feel free to exchange opinions regardless of position, age, or gender.

The ideology of the first head of general affairs gives rise to the "friendly discussion group"

Yataro Kado held a series of posts at the Hitachi Mine, including head of general affairs and general manager of the mine, and in the early days it was he who did his best to provide compensation to local residents for the smoke pollution from which they were suffering. It was Kado's ideology and belief that moral principles should always be adhered to. When it came to protecting employees as an asset and providing a working environment in which they could perform their jobs with peace of mind, that meant encouraging simplicity and fortitude, as well as simple hard work, but thinking about the happiness of each individual mine worker. Specific measures he put into practice included immediately investigating and promptly resolving any dissatisfaction or complaints regarding the mine, and maintaining harmony and mutual respect both in the workplace and the employee housing.

The culmination of these efforts was the "friendly discussion group" he launched in 1920. The aim of the group was for management and employees to hold talks focusing primarily on employee welfare and to make improvements. In an era when feudalism still clearly existed, the focus of their efforts was literally to achieve “friendly discussion.” The Nippon Mining Museum offers the opportunity to learn more about the friendly discussion group and the Hitachi Mine's other institutions, as well as life at the mine at that time.

Yataro Kado

The Nippon Mining Museum