Once upon a time in Ipoh

The capital of Perak State, Ipoh, is the third largest city in Malaysia, with an estimated population of 710,000. Ipoh is known for many things, but historically, it was instrumental in the tin mining industry, which led to an economic boom in the region around the turn of the 19th century. Some people remembered the city fondly as the town built on tin, and even the city of millionaires – which alludes to the riches excavated from the mines of Kinta Valley. Ipoh is also known as Paloh, which refers to the gigantic mining pumps used in the process of tin ore extraction in the early days. On 27 May 1988, Ipoh town was granted city status by the much-loved Sultan of Perak, Sultan Azlan Shah.

At the pinnacle of production, 75% of the world’s supply of tin came from Malaya where the mines were open cast and excavated by monitor pumps. However, as with most finite resources extracted from the earth, the mines eventually ran out of the precious metal everybody wanted. The machines and implements used for tin mining were slowly but surely reduced to relics of the good old days.

Tin ore on display at the Heritage House, Gopeng Museum, Perak.

Tin ore on display at the Heritage House, Gopeng Museum, Perak.

It is quite hard these days to find an actual tin mining dredge in good condition, as most had been in disuse and eventually fell into disrepair. However, there is one such dredge in Chendrong, which can be seen along the Batu Gajah-Tanjung Tualang Road. The dredge has now been hailed as a heritage icon and proposed to be turned into a museum. It is managed by Osborne & Chapel, and visitors may enter the place to view the dredge during opening hours.

The last tin mine dredge in Chendrong, Perak

The last tin mine dredge in Chendrong, Perak (side view)

It is undeniable that the mining dredge is a very impressive and gigantic structure, easily visible to the casual onlooker from the main road. The first thought that came to my mind when I saw it from afar was that it reminded me of a huge steam ship. But that’s just me. 🙂

The last tin mine dredge in Chendrong, Perak

The last tin mine dredge in Chendrong, Perak (front view)

Some people have found creative ways to utilise the mining equipment. For example, in 1997, the artist Yeoh Jin Leng built a sculpture called ‘Goodbye Tin-Mining’ that stands over 30 feet high. She used dredge steel buckets, a drive wheel and steel girds to depict the closure of the tin-mining industry in the Kinta Valley.

Sculpture entitled 'Goodbye Tin-Mining'. The sculpture is located inside Clearwater Sanctuary, Perak.

Sculpture entitled ‘Goodbye Tin-Mining’. The sculpture is located inside Clearwater Sanctuary, Perak.

Here’s the side view of the sculpture:

Sculpture entitled 'Goodbye Tin-Mining'. The sculpture is located inside Clearwater Sanctuary, Perak.

Side view of the sculpture entitled ‘Goodbye Tin-Mining’.

The plaque in front of the sculpture:

Plaque in front of a sculpture entitled 'Goodbye Tin-Mining'. The sculpture is located inside Clearwater Sanctuary, Perak.

Plaque in front of the sculpture.

Dredge steel buckets have also been converted into decorative objects. They weigh over a ton each, so the decorators probably needed a crane of some sort to move them around.

Dredge steel buckets used as decoration at a small roundabout in Clearwater Sanctuary, Perak.

Dredge steel buckets used as decorations at a small roundabout in Clearwater Sanctuary, Perak.

Dredge steel bucket on display next to the main entrance of the Tourism Centre in Ipoh Old Town.

A dredge steel bucket on display next to the main entrance of the Tourism Centre in Ipoh Old Town.

When I looked at this raincoat in the Heritage House @ Gopeng Museum (see below), I envisioned the workers in the tin mine wearing this type of raincoat when they worked in the rain.

Old fashioned raincoat from the olden days.

Old fashioned raincoat from the olden days.

To see old black and white photos from the days of the tin mines, visit the Kinta Tin Mining page.

To read more about the last dredge in Chendrong, Perak, see the Ipoh Echo article on ‘Saving the Last of the Giant Tin Dredges‘.

To find out more about Ipoh, visit the Ipoh Tourism Board page and the Ipoh page on Wikipedia.

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About khorhmin

Khor Hui Min thinks of life as a continuous learning process and believes in a healthy balance in work and life. She is a freelance writer, who is active in publishing poems and short stories. She moonlights as a facepainter for the Malaysian Nature Society, and also enjoys creating and carving pottery. She has a Bachelor of Computer Science and Master of Science (Environmental Science). You can read more of her writing at https://projectprose.wordpress.com/ and https://huiminskitchen.wordpress.com/
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