Saving the Last of the Giant Tin Dredges


Saving the Last of the Giant Tin Dredges

The last tin dredge in Chendrong, along the Batu Gajah-Tanjung Tualang Road, is described as “a heritage icon” of the once world renowned tin mining region of the Kinta Valley. Following a report that the dredge was in danger of flipping over and sinking, Ipoh Echo highlighted it and even carried out an on-line poll to gauge the views of the people, especially those in the Kinta Valley where the  tin mining industry had meant a lot to them, on whether to preserve it or not. The result has been an overwhelming “yes” for preserving the tin dredge, although it is clearly understood that it would be a mammoth task and as well as a costly one. It is also agreed by those favouring the preservation that the tin dredge by itself and on its own could not be sustained as a viable project. Other activities need to be developed around it.

Promises to Save the Dredge Comes With Major Financial Implications and Wise Planning

David Palmer

Subsequently, the state government through its state executive councillor in-charge of tourism, Dato’ Hamidah Osman, stated that the tin dredge would be saved. Dato’ Hamidah said there had been discussions of relocating the tin dredge to some other suitable locations. However nothing has been finalised until the full scope and cost of the project has been determined.

The Perak Government’s plan to preserve it as a monument of the tin mining industry and as a unique tourist attraction has been received with approval from various quarters in the state. “Ideally it should be part of a Tin Museum with the dredge being the main attraction and promoted strongly to attract the tourists to enable it to be sustainable,” said David Palmer, a retired mining consultant and the last CEO of Osborne & Chapel, the company that introduced hydraulics to the mining industry and operated mines in Perak and Selangor. “The dredge, as it is, needs to be upgraded and be made safe and sound for tourists to appreciate it. If possible, the dredge should be relocated to a viable and easily accessible location.”

Heritage Buffs Join the fray

The preservation of the dredge had also caught the attention of the local heritage buffs. Chairman of the Perak Heritage Society, Law Siak Hong, said “everything must be done to preserve it. Not only did it help make Kinta Valley world famous, it helped provide the wealth which built our country’s infrastructure and development”. “The dredge was presented by the mining company to the state for the people. That should be the inspiration for its conservation and subsequent re-use” added Law.

Elizabeth Cardosa, executive director of Badan Warisan Malaysia, had similar sentiments. “Tin mining played an integral part in our nation’s economic growth and a tin dredge is part of this legacy,” she commented. She added that the Tanjung Tualang Number 5 Dredge, if repaired, and well managed, would provide an excellent way to share the story and the very important role played by tin mining in the Kinta Valley, and in the development of the nation as a whole.

An on-line debate, started following a commentary written by the director of Ipoh World Ian Anderson on his views that preserving the dredge would be a “drain on resources forever”, resulted in a wealth of ideas to make it a viable tourist attraction by injecting economic activities in the vicinity of the dredge. Among them is the idea to induce various developments, such as allocating a piece of land for the construction of a large petrol station with attached fast-food outlets and shop-houses.

Dredge co-centre of attraction

A reader, engineer Aaron Ong, felt that the dredge could be successfully preserved as a heritage by making it a co-centre of attraction with the existing tourism based industries. He stressed that the dredge by itself and on its own could never be a centre of attraction. “No one would drive miles along empty roads to visit a dredge no matter how nicely dressed up” he said.

Therefore, local folk should be enticed to set up shops for their famous Tanjung Tualang’s freshwater prawns in clean and hygienic surroundings, with lots of open air for alfresco dining and ample parking; and using state machinery and media to promote this as a tourist spot.

“Sure this will take at the fastest a couple of years, so in the meantime some public money will have to be used for maintenance. But after this, the public money will be withdrawn and the owner/maintainer has to think of ways how to make the tourists appreciate the dredge so that the dredge will be self supporting,” Ong said.“I will certainly agree to the use of limited public money for maintenance of the dredge for the first two years, on condition that an economy is developed to boost and upgrade the existing prawn based tourism for the benefit of the local folk. I mean who wouldn’t be happy? For sure these people will be happy.”

Big Spruce Up

First and foremost, he said the dredge would have to be thoroughly repaired to display condition. All the riggings and the winches have to be inspected and made fast so nothing loose could come crashing down on the heads of visitors. Paint up the sides in bright beautiful colours like what they did to the Penang ferries. Next fix it up with beautiful lights inside and outside.

Ong have seen how ships and buildings far older than the dredge have been saved and preserved in Europe for future unborn generations so that their rich history is not lost to time. “To save the dredge, if not too late, the government would have to use public money for limited maintenance. By limited I mean, to arrest and recover the list and to make the hull waterfast. That is a priority. If this is not done, the dredge would list past its centre of gravity and would totally collapse. “How much is needed I have no idea, and it depends on a detailed hull examination by a competent engineer, and may even require the services of a professional diver, welder from a salvage company. If the leak is localised and not too serious, a ballpark figure maybe in the region of 10’s of thousands, perhaps” he said.

Costing Taxpayer

Responding to Ong’s suggestions, Ian Anderson says “It is a good idea and if it could be achieved then that would be great, but, and it is a big BUT, it does need a far-sighted developer to come in with several million to put up, up front. Meanwhile the dredge will still be costing the taxpayer, or someone, however many millions it will take to bring it up to an acceptable tourist level in terms of maintenance, repair and safety.”

The dredge was built in 1938 by the consulting engineering firm of F.W. Payne and Co. It started operations at Teja, Gopeng, and after 44 years ceased operations and moved to its present location in 1982. The company responsible for managing the dredge, Century Mission Sdn Bhd is unable to repair the pontoon due to financial constraints.  Meanwhile, with the pontoon rusty and leaking the situation of the tin dredge is getting worse each day. Ipoh Echo hopes that the commitment made by Dato’ Hamidah to save the dredge will materialise in the very near future to preserve the last visible heritage of the tin mining industry that brought the Kinta Valley the fame and glory that it enjoyed in the past.


12 thoughts on “Saving the Last of the Giant Tin Dredges

  1. i remember D?avid when he visited myself and John Matin in Ecuador. Long time ago, John martin is in an aged care home now but still remembers the good old days when we bought the malay dredge to Ecuador. Over the Andes.

  2. Just two months have gone by since the great news from the State Government that the Dredge would be saved for the long term future. Has anyone got any updates on the progress of this? Has any work been done to stop it sinking? Has the costing study proposed by government actually been completed and if so, how much of taxpayers’ money will be needed. Is it possible we could have a progress report please?

  3. I strongly agree with David Foon
    Also should look into large corps to contribute, to ease the burden to the government

    Dr Hasral

  4. Yup, guv’nor, that’s certainly the gist of it. “Toke barang lusuh” is offering to take the dredge, though no price is quoted.

    It’s been months now since I touched on this and no effort has been made to salvage the vessel, so my take is that it will be scrapped. So be it.

    Before it does get scrapped, I’d like to propose that a detailed engineering survey and drawing be made so that the technology and know-how is not lost. Perhaps a working scale model suitable for display in a museum can be made out of say, Meccano parts.

  5. Although I can never be considered competent in the Malay language, I believe that the last post from our dealer friend is suggesting that he buys the dredge parts by the kilo (as scrap). Of course he doesn’t quote a price.

    Now with so much cash being needed to move/stabilise/make safe/repair/or whatever is the final decision, I believe that there is still a big risk that in the end the dredge will go for scrap as the money will just not be made available.

    Now, a plea to those who own or have responsibility for the dredge; should the dredge be scrapped, then PLEASE save at least one example of those parts that are unique to dredging so that they may be displayed elsewhere. The bucket belt and buckets complete, the main drive wheel and some of the other special machinery would at least give some idea of the immense size of the machinery, particularly if displayed alongside a really definitive (working?) model.

  6. elloo incek

    kasi jual sama saya la itu besi.
    kira kiping pun bole kira kilo pun bole.

  7. Yes Commander, I agree on the RM5 mil MINIMUM pricetag just for the move.

    That’s prolly just the bare minimum to put it back together in a static display.

    For safe & operational display, try 20 or more.

  8. As far as I know, the estimated cost just to take the dredge to pieces and move it to another site has recently been put at RM5 million minimum. Further to that, as Aaron points out there will be a lot of damage to be put right once it arrives at the new site. That could cost another million or two. Then there will be the cost of all the infrastructure, new museum building, guardhouse etc as already provided at the present site. Very deep pockets indeed!

    And these are not the government’s pockets, they are yours and mine!

  9. QUOTE
    this is awesome ppl…keep it up!:)

    Sorry, What is awesome??? The tin dredge itself? The article? The comments? The 25 cent stamp? The picture of David Palmer?

  10. QUOTE

    May I suggest to move it to Gopeng.


    Yeah…. easier said than done, especially if it doesn’t crumble or collapse upon dismantling.

    David, this isn’t a brand new vessel, where one can easily unbolt/cut and then reassemble/reweld easily.

    Besides, I believe no one, including the state goverment, has deep pockets for the major move.

  11. Many of us in Kinta valley have one way or another live through the tin mining industries.
    It would be sad to see if no efforts are made to safeguard or preserve some of the heritage or sites on tin mining.
    I tend to see in an overall view to this problem or rather opportunity that is in creating a Kinta Valley Tin Mining Heritage and Educational Centre.

    Main Issues of existing dredge :
    1) location being too far from main centres to attract tourists and visitors
    2) maintenance( especially preventing it from sinking.)

    Suggestions on new location:
    May I suggest to move it to Gopeng.

    a) Gopeng is strategically located and very easily accessible from the main trunk road and the North South highway and its nearest to the main centres of Ipoh – Kampar corridor.
    b) It is getting well-known now and the tin dredge can complement to the existing tourism products like Gua Tempurung,the iconic pipelines for tin mining, eco-nature adventures in the interior of Gopeng (with activities like White water rafting,Rafflesia,Trans Gopeng-Cameron trek, waterfalls, jungle treks etc), the Gopeng Muzium, and many other potentials like Gua Naga Mas ( where the fossil of a cat is found) and Kellie’s Castle,etc.

    Maintenance (prevent from sinking):
    1)To avoid the dredge from sinking, sit it on dry ground.
    2) money from the visitors- for maintenance.

    Ideas for new site :
    My idea of new sites for the tin dredge, in priority, are :
    1) the mining grounds of Gopeng Bhd , formerly Kinta Tin Mines – near the Gopeng Industrial Estate. There is still an existing palong (albeit very modern design) on site re-washing the earth for tin, amang (and other minerals) and sand.
    Imagine how awesome it would be if the tin dredge is sited next to the operating palong.Some equipments used like the electrical switch gears ,the giant motors and pumps still dates back to the old British time.
    Understand that this palong would be dismantled soon as the existing site has run out of water after the “so called heritage pipelines” have been removed last year.

    2)another site, but of lower priority, is in front of Gua Tempurung, which was formerly a mining ground. Here we would have 2 wonders- but contrasting each other in prducts wise.

    3) the 3rd site is along Lawan Kuda -Kota Bahroe road.
    This is the Teja site.

    Proposal :
    1) Have the state government gazzete part of this land ( I mean Gopeng Bhd) and develop it into “Kinta Valley Tin Mining Heritage & Educational Centre.”
    2) Find ways to keep the existing operating palong for heritage purposes.(if dismantled, then gone another heritage.)
    3) Make Gopeng town a Tin mining heritage town.
    Already , there are products to offer the tourists like the Gopeng Muzium.
    I believe the local communities are upbeat to promote this heritage product.

    4) The Gopeng Muzium with its focus on tin and rubber can only do so much in pictorial , small tools display and write-ups. Link this Gopeng Muzium and even the Ipoh Geological Muzium to this new ” Kinta Valley Tin Mining Heritage & Educational Centre.”

    5) develop the site’s vicinities with its many existing ponds,lakes, sandy areas,etc.

    6) look into the nearby Gunung Lanno limestone masif ( north of Gopeng-bordering Simpang Pulai, along the N-S highway). Here there was a cave tin mining before-where one can still see the remnants of the trolley tracks and cave mining.
    Develop this as a heritage icon as well and stop the quarrying now from the northern side of the G. Lanno.

    Then Gopeng is complete with tin mining
    a. palong
    b. Tin Dredge
    c. cave mining
    d. but no underground mining ( leave it to Sg Lembing, Pahang)

    David Foon

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