• Kyodo

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The director general of UNESCO on Monday visited the remains of the Iwami silver mine, a World Heritage site candidate, prefectural officials said.

The Shimane Prefectural Government invited Koichiro Matsuura, a former senior Japanese diplomat, to help with its efforts to have the site registered by UNESCO.

His visit is not part of the registration process.

The site was added to Japan’s list of future proposals for the heritage list in 2001.

Miners began digging for silver at Iwami around 1300, Shimane officials said.

Around the end of the 16th century and the beginning of 17th century, the mine yielded most of silver produced in Japan. It is said to have yielded a third of the silver in the world at that time.

Iwami silver played an important role as a medium of trade between Japan, China, Korea, Portugal, Spain and other countries, according to the Iwami mine Web site operated by the prefecture.

The silver was exported and was used domestically to make coins.

The 400-hectare site contains the mining area, three protecting fortresses, a port to ship the silver and a path leading to the port.

It includes a street that was rebuilt after being destroyed by fire in 1800. The street looks much as it did in the days when people mined, sold and bought silver as a way of life.

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