Itai-itai victims settle with Mitsui Mining

Decades-long fight over disease caused by pollution finally ends

Kyodo

Victims of itai-itai disease and the company responsible for the pollution-caused malady, Mitsui Mining & Smelting Co., reached a complete settlement over compensation Tuesday after decades of legal battles.

Under the agreement, Mitsui Mining will pay a lump sum of ¥600,000 to victims who have suffered kidney trouble caused by cadmium poisoning but are not designated as sufferers of the disease under the government’s criteria.

Mitsui will also pay compensation to officially recognized victims and issue an apology.

Itai-itai is one of Japan’s four worst pollution-caused diseases. The illness has afflicted people living along the Jinzu River in Toyama Prefecture. It was officially designated as a pollution-related disease in May 1968, though the first patient is believed to have appeared in 1911.

“I apologize from the bottom of my heart,” Mitsui Mining President Sadao Senda said at the signing ceremony in the city of Toyama. “We will continue working for the sufferers and make efforts to prevent pollution.”

Kunihiro Takagi, leader of a group representing victims of the disease, said that “our ancestors went through hardships, but we have been able to create a relationship of mutual trust (with the company). We accept the apology.”

The word “itai” means painful in Japanese.

Mitsui Mining, which operated zinc, lead and silver mines, discharged cadmium-polluted water into the Jinzu River, exposing residents to cadmium through drinking water and polluted rice.

A total of 196 people have been designated as victims of the disease, three of whom are still alive. Meanwhile, 500 to 600 people are believed to be entitled to receive the latest lump sums.

Itai-itai disease is considered one of the four worst pollution-related diseases in Japan, along with the Minamata disease outbreaks caused by mercury poisoning in Kumamoto and Niigata prefectures, and Yokkaichi asthma, caused by air pollution in the industrial city of Yokkaichi, Mie Prefecture.

The Toyama District Court ordered Mitsui Mining in 1971 to pay damages to the victims or their families.

The company and victims started discussions for a complete settlement in July 2009.