Symbol: Sn (from the Latin: stannum).
Atomic number: 50.
Description: soft, silvery metal that characteristically has a faint yellow hue.
A successful (so far) campaign to ‘Save the Dredge’ means that I was able to visit Tanjung Tualang Dredge No. 5 (TT5) today. The dredge weighs 4,500 tonnes and is supported by a 75m by 35m pontoon which is 3m deep. It was built in England in 1938 by F.W.Payne & Son and stands today about 40 minutes south of Ipoh, Perak.
In 1883 Malaysia was the largest producer of tin in the world and by 1885 this has led to the construction of 12.8km of railway enabling Taiping and Port Weld in Perak to be connected. The first trunk road in peninsular Malaysia was also constructed to pass through major mining towns in Perak, Selangor and Negeri Sembilan which was used frequently to transport tin from mine to port. It wasn’t until the 1920s that dredging was introduced to Malaysia, and this made a huge difference to the pace at which tin could be excavated from the ground, and of course, unfortunately expedited the demise of the tin industry.
The process is simple; the scoops (photographed below) pick up bucket-loads of tin-bearing soil at the front end of the dredge. This then passes through oscillating drums and system of jigs and screens that separate the tin from waste materials. The extracted waste materials are then spewed out the back of the dredge through a number of chutes having often produced 26 tonnes of tin in a 24 hour period.
In 1982, after 44 years of operation, TT5 ceased to be used due to the rapid decline of the Malaysian tin industry; tin deposits had been exhausted but they were also dealing with low tin prices and high operating costs. Most dredges in the area had been disposed of – reasonable prices could be received for the scrap metal – and fortunately this one has now been restored to enable tourists and heritage enthusiasts to learn about the tin industry that once thrived in the area.
Entry fee: RM20 for non-Malaysian adults (RM10 for Malaysians)
Ample parking available. Safety helmets must be worn on the dredge. No food or drink to be consumed. Tours take place every hour at half past the hour from 9.30am to 4.30pm. Gift shop is limited, but there are cold drinks in a fridge available for purchase.
Oh, and apparently the toilets were good!
Don’t expect too much from the tour if you require it in English, but there is some information posted inside along with some samples of the rock found in the area when dredging took place including tin, kaolin, granite, clays and limestone.