I call it the 'big ship'. We stepped on and walked around this ' ship' at Tanjung Tualang. Interest was already aroused when we saw the dredge buckets at the Clearwater Sanctuary Resort where we stayed overnight to celebrate Father's Day. In fact, it has been nearly 20 years ago when a friend in the mining industry conducted a tour on a working dredge at Batang Berjuntai, Selangor. Only this time round, the dredge at Tanjung Tualang is just a tourist attraction and sadly, it is not in its prime condition anymore.
The tin mining industry was once a major contributor to the Malaysian economy. In the heyday of tin-mining in the mid 19th century, the state of Perak was one of the most active areas. Towns like Ipoh, Gopeng, Kampar and Batu Gajah have a rich history of tin -mining. Rich, extensive alluvial tin were found in these Kinta Valley towns and Larut. Coupled with spectacular demand from the industrialized countries and the arrival of indentured labour from China, the tin industry rapidly expanded to become the largest in the world.
As tin -mining industry developed, it was not without fierce local rivalries. There was much disorder among secret societies and other rival groups. Soon, it was clear that British intervention was necessary to settle matters for tin mining to prosper -roads , railways and ports were opened to facilitate the supply of tin to growing demands from the outside world.
The tin mining industry collapsed due to a variety of reasons viz. falling in tin prices, rising cost of production, substitutes like aluminium, plastic etc for tin, high taxes etc.
Eye-catching structure at the main entrance of the Clearwater Sanctuary Resort, Batu Gajah. The Resort is one example of former mining pools turned into recreational places.
A bucket dredge is essentially a chain of expensive buckets costing sterling pounds 100 in the 1920s. The buckets go up one ladder and down another. The lip of the bucket cuts into the ground as it begins its upward journey and carries a chunk of the ore-bearing ground up to the dredge, dropping it out into the works, as it turns over at the top of the ladder to begin the downward journey.
The dredge is usually floated in a paddock or an artifcial pool when it begins work. Then the dredge cuts away one wall of the pool and dumps the waste sand against the opposite wall. so that the pool and the dredge floating on it advance together. The bucket dredge works best in swampy land. source : Kinta Valley/ Pioneering Malaysia's Modern Technology by Khoo Salma Nasution& Abdur-Razaaq Lubis
'Big ship' afloating in Tanjung Tualang
The 4,500 tonne giant, Dredge No.5 of Southern Malayan Tin Dredging, designed by Payne & Co., was built in 1938. It ceased operation in 1982. TT5 is at Chenderong near Tanjung Tualang.
Signs of the times - the dredge is listing and the pontoons need repairing- can this industrial heritage be saved?
This is one method strongly associated with women miners. They swirl the tin-bearing ground with some water in their dulang to concentrate the ore which is then tipped into a pail.
The Chinese women wore long- sleeved samfus and trousers of black or indigo blue. On their heads they wore wide-brimmed hats. Under these they wore a triangular scarf, using another scarf to cover the back of their necks.The hats had a tassle on either side , the colour of which indicated if the wearer were married or still a maiden : source Kinta Valley/Pioneering Malaysia's Modern Development
Gravel pump method involves spraying high -pressure jets of water on rocks containing tin-ore and breaking them up. The tin- mining material is then washed down a depression called a sump. A pump brings the material up a palong, a gently sloping wooden structure which separates tin from other materials. Wooden bars known as riffles across the palong trap the heavier tin ore, leaving the rest of the materials to be dumped as tailings.