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 the place 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 build up 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, but it lives on in the Group today.

Living in Harmony with Local Communities

How the smoke pollution problem became the occasion for building good relations with the local community

When the Hitachi Mine first went into operation in 1905, there was no established technology for effectively recovering sulfur dioxide generated from the sulfur content of ores in the smelting process. It was not long before the smoke emitted from the Hitachi Mine, which contained sulfur dioxide, began to cause withering of trees in the surrounding forests and widespread crop damage.
Although it was an era in which Japan had not yet established laws concerning compensation for such cases, the management of the Hitachi Mine company, led by Yataro Kado, the first head of general affairs, acted in good faith, paying damage compensation to the residents. As soon as someone reported damage, the Company investigated. It also signed agreements in advance in areas likely to suffer damage as the business expanded, in attempts to reduce the unease of residents. Sincere efforts like these led to the building of relationships of trust between the Company and the community.

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

The world's tallest smokestack in its day (background) and large round chimney (foreground)

Along with paying compensation to residents affected by the smoke pollution, the Company tried various measures to disperse and dilute the exhaust smoke, such as building a flue and a large round chimney. Despite such efforts, the damage continued to spread. The Company's founder Fusanosuke Kuhara then proposed building what at the time was the world's tallest smokestack to disperse the smoke over a wide area. Seen as being too far removed from the accepted methods for dealing with smoke pollution at that time, the proposal was widely opposed within industry, government, and academic circles. Nonetheless, Kuhara decided to go ahead with the project, backed up by weather observations and experimental data.
Construction of the giant stack required a total of nearly 37,000 workers and a massive financial investment. After it was completed in December 1914, what was then the world's tallest stack at 155.7 meters did in fact succeed in dramatically reducing smoke pollution.

Tree-planting programs to reforest the devastated mountains

Planting Oshima cherry trees

The next project the Hitachi Mine undertook was to embark on full-scale treeplanting programs to restore forests in 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 test and selectively breed trees and crops including smoke-resistant Oshima cherry.
A total of five million saplings grown by the Hitachi Mine based on this research were planted to reforest an area of approximately 1,200 hectares. An additional five million saplings were distributed to local residents free of charge, for planting in city areas, bringing the total including those planted by the mine to ten million trees.

The ethos of community involvement and development continues today

The giant stack today

As a result of these efforts, greenery returned to the mountains, and the city of Hitachi became famous throughout Japan as "the city of cherry trees." In 1993, the stack suddenly collapsed, leaving only the bottom one-third in place. The repaired stack currently stands at a height of 54 meters, but the spirit of community involvement and development that it symbolizes 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 no longer looks the same, the spirit of community building that it stands for remains as strong as ever."

The Words of Founder Fusanosuke Kuhara

"Pollution problems are ever present. They are like an eternal cross that the human race must bear. As science advances, pollution becomes more diverse. How many people have devoted strenuous efforts and pains to stopping this problem from growing?"…

…"The same can be said for the Hitachi Mine. Without the pollution problem, the history of the mine could not be told. In December 1914, the Hitachi Mine finished building on its own what is said to be the world's tallest smokestack at the time, marking an end to the problem. This was a valuable experience, through which, over a period of around 10 years, the Company and the local citizens together suffered, anguished, and then came up with a solution on their own."

From the preface to a 1963 book by Umanojo Seki on the story of Hitachi Mine's smoke pollution

Fusanosuke Kuhara

Hitachi Mine employee housing


Protecting our greatest asset—our employees

Creating environments where employees can work with peace of mind

Another CSR legacy instilled in the Group is our belief that employees are a company's assets.

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, a railroad, and recreational facilities.
Yataro Kado, as head of general affairs and general manager of the mine, believed in encouraging simplicity and fortitude, as well as simple hard work, while also thinking about the happiness of each individual mine worker. He made it a practice to investigate and resolve employees' dissatisfactions or complaints regarding the mine, and worked to maintain harmony among workers both in the workplace and in employee housing. The culmination of these efforts was the "friendly discussion group" he launched in 1920. The aim was for management and employees to hold talks focusing primarily on employee welfare.

In this environment that combined work and home, the Company organization built a climate of respect for employees, while a sense of togetherness took root among the employees themselves and the creed of "the Mine as One Big Family" was born.
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.

Learning about the Roots of CSR in the JX Nippon Mining & Metals Group

The story of a company and community battling pollution, told in novel form

Naoki Prize-winning author Jiro Nitta wrote the novel Aru machi no takai entotsu (A tall stack in a town), telling the story of a community and company aiming for coexistence and mutual prosperity. The novel is based on the actual story of the Hitachi Mine and surrounding residents together confronting the smoke pollution problem. Woven into this story is the determined spirit of the mining company owner. It is a work that paints a vision of company-community relations, and brings the reader in touch with the roots of CSR in the Group.
In 2018, shooting on a movie version of the novel began in the city of Hitachi where the story unfolded, and elsewhere. Production is underway, targeting release of the movie in 2019. It is hoped that the movie will be an opportunity for more people to become familiar with the novel.

Filming in progress