Tin mining is one of Malaysia’s oldest and most successful industries. In the 1600s, this industry started to thrive in Kedah, Perak and Selangor. Over the centuries, tin was extracted in huge quantities from both open cast and deeper mines. Dredges were commonly used to extract the tin. Today, there are only about three old dredges left in the country, and this one at Chenderoh, near Tanjong Tualang, Perak, has been preserved. In Feb 2008, it was opened to the public for tours.
The first tin dredge was introduced in Malaysia in 1913 by Malayan Tin Dredging Ltd and started operations in Batu Gajah, Perak. It was steam-powered, using 280-litre buckets that could dig to a depth of 15 metres. The company acquired four dredges and by 1924 was the largest tin dredging company in the world. In 1926, a sister company, Southern Malayan Tin Dredging Ltd was formed, and operated a further five tin dredges between Batu Gajah and Tanjong Tualang.
This fifth dredge, the Tanjung Tualang Dredge No.5 (TT5) was designed and built by F.W. Payne in 1938 in England. It is located approximately 9 kilometres south of Batu Gajah on the Tanjong Tualang road. The dredge was in operation for 44 years, until August 1982, when a drop in tin prices made the dredge uneconomicaly viable.
The pontoon of the dredge is 75m long, 20m wide, and is three storeys high. The total weight of the dredge is 4,500 tonnes. It is essentially a floating factory where buckets on a chain scoop earth deep from the pond. These buckets were then transported up to an area high in the body of the dredge. It was moved by means of a 1.5km long cable, worked from the control area.
The dredge would run on diesel generated electricity 24 hours a day, in two shifts with approximately 20 workers per shift. The conveyor buckets would dig the tin-bearing soil and transport it upwards, emptying the contents into an oscillating drum. The tin would then be extracted through a system of jigs and screens, leaving the excess material to be disposed of via a system of chutes at the back of the dredge.
During the heyday of the tin mining industry, 40 dredges were operated in Perak, with a record of 105 working in 1929 in the whole of the peninsula. This particular dredge stopped work around 1983 after more than 40 years of service.
The TT5 tin dredge is currently owned by the Perak State Government. It is of enormous heritage value as the last remaining tin dredge of its kind in Malaysia. A committee was formed at the end of 2010 to save, preserve and enhance TT5 tin dredge so that it could showcase Malaysia’s tin mining past through tourism and education. This has resulted in a “Save the Dredge” campaign in order to raise funds for restoration of the dredge. The TT5 tin dredge is open from 8:30am to 7pm daily, including weekends and public holidays with an entrance fee of RM10.