Japanese corporations have been accused of breaking promises by Australian environmentalists who are concerned that logging is continuing in Tasmania’s ancient forests.

Environmentalists maintain that each year more than five million tons of Tasmanian forest are logged and turned into wood chips that are sold to paper mills in Japan, South Korea and China.

Last year Mitsubishi Paper Mills promised to stop buying the Tasmanian wood chips, but that pledge has not been fulfilled.

Mitsubishi, Nippon Paper Industries, and Oji Paper Co all say they are awaiting the outcome of legal action under way against Gunns Ltd, the Australian logging company responsible for felling the Tasmanian trees.

Environmental activitist and senator Bob Brown maintains that just 4% of Tasmania’s public forests ends up as sawn timber. He added: “The entire ecosystem is being destroyed for the benefit of a few Japanese companies.”

International pressure on Japanese companies to stop buying Tasmanian timber is also growing, with more than 100,000 e-mail messages sent since 2002 urging them to halt the logging.