A Former Coal Mining City

Akabira, A former coal mining city

Takeshiro Matsuura, the explorer who named Hokkaido, discovered an outcrop of coal along the Sorachi River in 1857. Geologist Ichitaro Ban applied for local mining rights in 1894 after the completion of geological surveys by government official and geologist Takeaki Enomoto in 1873, American mining engineer/surveyor Benjamin Smith Lyman in 1874, and others. In 1924, the mining area was placed under the management of Sumitomo Coal Mining Co., and an inclined shaft (initially known as the Kamiutashinai Mine) was put into operation. In 1938, Sumitomo Coal Mining began to develop the Akabira region and opened three shafts based on inclined construction (Shaft No. 1 in 1939, Shaft No. 2 in 1941 and Shaft No. 3 in 1944). In 1953, the company consolidated Section ix of Inclined Shaft No. 1 (initially known as the Kamiutashinai Mine). In this way, the coal mines of Akabira long played an important role in Hokkaido’s coal mining history. The last facility – the Sumitomo Akabira Coal Mine – was closed on February 25, 1994, bringing 55 years of operation to an end.