PETALING JAYA: Mention Kampar and it will probably conjure up images of a sleepy town in Perak, where residents go about their lives in charming quietude.
But delve a little deeper and you will learn that this place, located in the Kinta Valley, has a rich history, figuratively and literally. This was, after all, a tin-mining hub back in the day – and the best place to learn about this is at the Kinta Tin Mining Museum.
Located on Jalan Batu Karang in the new town area, the museum is a treasure trove for history buffs eager to know about this humble town’s days of yore (or should that be ore?).
Speaking with FMT Lifestyle recently, curator Jacky Chew revealed that the museum was founded in 2012 by the late ex-Kampar MP Hew See Tong.
A former tin miner himself, Hew had been very passionate about the industry and the vital role it played in the development of this country.
“It was the first industry that attracted foreign countries to invest in Malaya, which laid down the foundation of our economy and its modernisation,” Chew said.
According to him, while tin mining had already been carried out by the native Malays previously, it wasn’t until the 1850s that Long Jaafar discovered tin deposits in Larut – the tipping point that would lead to the eventual boom in Perak.
“Back then, elephants were used to go into the jungle to look for tin deposits, as only they could pass through given their size and stature. They were also used to clear roads so foundations could be laid to build the tin mines,” Chew explained.
Walk into the museum and you will notice a giant elephant statue, a replica of Long Jaafar’s pet, appropriately named Larut. Apparently it had gone missing for several days and had been found covered in mud that contained a significant amount of ore.
This discovery would lead to the establishment of a tin-mining belt in what is now Taiping, and the subsequent rush brought the first wave of migrant mining labourers from southern China, especially those of the Hakka and Cantonese clans.
Then, in the 1880s, large tin deposits were discovered in the Kinta district, prompting many miners to shift there. Kinta thus became the largest tin field in the world; and now, the Kinta Tin Valley Museum stands as a loving testament to those glory days.
Here, you can learn all about the various tin-mining techniques that were developed over time. These range from labour-intensive and manually operated pumps, influenced by Chinese methods, to power-operated pumps and monitors, adapted from the western hydraulic mining method.
Visitors will be fascinated by highly detailed miniature replicas of mining locations, with corresponding explainers on the various ways tin could be extracted.
Elsewhere, replicas to scale of labourers and other individuals will give you a glimpse of life in the olden days, whether they are working hard in the mines, weighing ore, or simply having a meal in the canteen.
Also on display are numerous old photos showcasing the beauty of Kampar past and present, alongside old documents of transations among former tin-mining companies.
Chew welcomes one and all to the Kampar Tin Mining Museum to discover there’s much more to this sleepy town than meets the eye. And in the near future, he plans to conduct guided tours around the museum for a more personal, interactive touch.
All the more reason to head north or south to check out this hidden gem, while indulging in the terrific food Kampar has to offer!
Kinta Tin Mining Museum
Lot 126026, Jalan Batu Karang,
Taman Bandar Baru,
31900 Kampar, Perak
Opening hours: 9am-5pm daily
- RM5 (over 17 years)
- RM2 (6-17 years)
- free (under 6 years)
Contact: 012-288 8530