Located just twelve miles southeast of Niihama city in Ehime Prefecture are the ruins of one of the most productive ever mines in Japan, producing 19 million tons of ore.
Besshi began mining copper in 1691 and continued operations until 1973. They began digging at 3937 feet above sea level and reached a depth of 3281 feet below sea level.
From Niihama station take a city bus to Minetopia Besshi, a sort of mine amusement park, purchase your tour tickets, and board a small bus that will take you up and around winding roads to the top of a mountain where at one time 4000 residents lived. The town was named Tonaru Zone.
Upon arrival walk on over to the Copper Mine Memorial Museum where you can see what life was like living at the top of the mountain. You should spend enough time wandering through all six of the excellent exhibit areas. Back outside you will find many good photo shot viewpoints of both the ruins and the valley leading to the bay.
The tour guide will take you through a short tunnel used to move equipment around, then a walk down to the ore storage area ruins. All of the signs have English explanations. You will then walk up 208 steps to a very nice viewpoint of the surrounding area.
There will be some time to explore other parts of Tonaru Zone before heading back to Minetopia Besshi where you can pan for gold, check out the Mine Tunnel Gate, ride the German made train through a mine tunnel, and finally walk around in the main building. It houses a gem museum, mine equipment, restaurants, and of course gift shops. There is even a hot spring in the next building and plenty of walking paths.
The history of mining in Japan is very interesting and Besshi Copper mine is a must see on your trip to Shikoku.