Mitsubishi Corporation

vol.12 Yanosuke Expands Mitsubishi's Involvement in Mining

Our Roots A history of rising to the challenge
Photo courtesy of the Mitsubishi Archives

vol.12 Yanosuke Expands Mitsubishi's Involvement in Mining

We continue to focus on Yanosuke Iwasaki, Mitsubishi's second president.

In the early 1880s, Mitsubishi became embroiled in an intense battle with a rival shipping enterprise. In 1885, the two companies agreed to a merger, which resulted in the establishment of Nippon Yusen Kaisha (NYK). With its shipping business transferred to the new company, Mitsubishi proceeded to establish Mitsubishi-Sha in 1886 and increasingly began to focus on mining. Coal and copper were vital for the growth of new industries and also provided a means for acquiring foreign currencies. The mining business was therefore very much in keeping with the business philosophy of Mitsubishi, which had traditionally grown in step with the development of Japan.
Acquired by Mitsubishi in 1881, the Takashima Coal Mine eventually emerged as a leading mine, accounting for 20% of Japan's total coal production, but Mitsubishi harbored concerns about the extent of the mine's reserves. Therefore, the company was eager to acquire the Miike Mine, Japan's other leading coal mine, when the government put it up for sale in 1888. However, after being narrowly outbid by a rival firm, Mitsubishi turned its attention to the Chikuho Region of northern Kyushu, where it proceeded to acquire a number of small- and medium-sized coal mines. The company actively invested in equipment while introducing modern technologies for mining, drainage and coal preparation.

Outside the coal business, Mitsubishi had acquired the Yoshioka Copper Mine in 1872, when Yataro was president. Machine drills were introduced in 1881, thereby clearing the way for the redevelopment of mines across Japan. Yanosuke aggressively pursued the acquisition of mines. Mitsubishi purchased seven mines over a ten-year span starting in the late 1870s and an additional 40 mines during the following ten-year period. Production was dramatically increased as new technologies were introduced for excavation, cargo hauling and coal refining.
In 1918, Mitsubishi's mining operations were spun off to form Mitsubishi Mining Co., the forerunner of today's Mitsubishi Materials. Around the same time, Mitsubishi's trade department, which had originally been named the coal sales department, was spun off to form Mitsubishi Shoji Kaisha, the precursor to today's Mitsubishi Corporation.