By Jerry Francis
Just as I had expressed my fear earlier (IE93) that any plan to relocate the last of the giant tin dredge and preserve it as a heritage of the once renowned tin mining industry in the Kinta Valley will face a whopping bill.
It is now learnt that an estimate prepared by an engineering company to move the dredge to Clearwater Golf Resort, where it is being proposed for relocation, will cost a total of RM30 million. That is to dismantle the 60-year-old dredge at its present location at Batu 5, Jalan Batu Gajah-Tanjung Tualang and reassemble it at the golf resort about 12 km away.
Dismantling vs. Repair on Site
Dismantling the 5,000-ton dredge “TT5” and reassembling it at the new location will cost RM25 million while the cost of preparing the new site for relocating the dredge, transporting the various sections of the dredge, to repair and replace damaged parts, installing safety features, and as well as painting it will cost another RM5 million.
And what about the time it takes to dismantle the dredge and reassemble at the new location? According to mining experts, it will take over two years to complete.
Compared with just leaving the dredge where it is, and to repair and spruce it up, the bill will be less than five per cent of the total cost of relocating.
Having these figures in hand now, will the state chairman of tourism Dato’ Hamidah Osman still toy with the idea of relocating the tin dredge? I hope not.
Dato’ Hamidah, who was recently asked about the proposed relocation, claimed that she is yet to study the report from the consultant.
Create a Living Monument Instead
Let us assume the RM30 million could be made available, will it be worth spending just on the relocation? Imagine how we can use that amount of money to induce development around the area where the dredge is located.
In fact, there is a lot of land available at the site to turn into a living monument of the tin mining industry and call it “Kinta Tin Mining Village”. Replicas of the other mining methods, such as open-cast mine and palong, could be built around it with the dredge as the centrepiece.
Thus, a new tourist resort could be created and bring economic development to the once tin mining region. It will boost the economy of the locals, who could get the opportunities to set up restaurants, souvenirs’ shops and other business activities.
I share the views of many others that the dredge is left at its current location and be repaired and spruced up as a unique tourist attraction in the Silver State. It is ideally located along the main road and already has some basic infrastructure constructed by the Kinta District Council at the cost of RM600,000. There are lighted parking bays, an office building, and a concrete path around the dredge.
I don’t think merely exhibiting equipments and photographs will have a desired impact as a heritage of the tin mining industry. It takes an actual relic to have an impact.
Preservation Body Needed
We could learn from abroad how many historical and heritage relics are being successfully preserved and maintained by various non-profit organizations, particularly in Europe.
It would not be a waste of money if we could similarly set up an organisation which is dedicated to preserving the heritage of the tin mining industry, to manage and maintain the dredge. It has to be funded through an annual grant from the federal or state government and donations from various foundations.
Certainly, an entrance fee needs to be charged to meet some of the maintenance cost, but it must not be exorbitant. Presently, the dredge is being looked after by Osborne & Chappel Sdn Bhd, which had spent about RM300,000 on maintenance.
No matter how good a tourist attraction is, it needs to be promoted aggressively to be successful.
I have visited a few well known tourists’ attractions abroad, travelling for hours to the sites, only to realise that we have better attractions back home, the difference being the fact that ours are not promoted as aggressively as theirs.
Make Kinta Valley a Unique Destination
Of course our last tin dredge on its own may not have enough magnetic pull to make the Kinta Valley a tourists’ destination, but incorporated with other attractions it could be a unique destination.
A package tour could include visits to the fascinating limestone hills and cave temples around Ipoh, old mining towns such as Papan, Terrapins’ hatchery at nearby Bota Kanan, Pasir Salak Historical Complex and the taste of the various gourmet foods, including the Udang Galah (freshwater lobster) at Tanjung Tualang.
Such a tour when aggressively promoted, will certainly bring in a steady flow of local and foreign tourists to this once largest alluvial tin mining region in the world, which at this moment loses out to Kuala Lumpur and Penang in tourist appeal.
Tourists everywhere have enough of skyscrapers, shopping complexes or even beaches and are ripe and ready for some unique experiences. This is where the Kinta Valley needs to offer and create a niche for itself and start to be competitive to other destinations in the country.