Ipohworld's World

Saving Yesterday For Tomorrow


….with a tin mine in Tambun!

According to our picture-source (Heritage Asia, Feb-Apr 2008), the above mine was opened by Leong Fee in 1902. Leong Fee of course was also the founder of Han Chin Villa (Han Chin Pet Soo).

Pssst…despite Han Chin Pet Soo being a gentlemen’s club back then, you can actually visit the club today! Click here for more information.

  1. Ngai C O says:


    As much as tin brought wealth to the operators of tin mines and employment to many people, one thing seemed to be missing.

    I wonder how many people paid for their lives over the years through incidents and accidents or suffered debilitating injuries.

    Landslides were an ever potential risk in open cast mines like the one shown in the picture and also from the bunds that were built to store the unwanted spoil.

    This aspect was never mentioned or buried somewhere from the public.

    The bigger operators might have a little better safety record. Even they had many weaknesses. Deadly asbestos cloth was still used in the 80′s to line the rotary furnaces although it was banned in the UK. I have first hand experience in this matter.

    Arsenic from the flotation processes to recover tin was just washed into the drains and streams.

    Sulphur and other toxic particulates from the burning of heavy fuel oil to dry the tin ore was crudely removed by a water shower. This contaminated water was channeled away by a stream.

    There existed an analytical lab where mercury was used to assay for gold. The mercury vapour was removed by a water shower after the fume chamber. This contaminated water was channeled to an adjacent pond.

    Another pond about 20 or so feet away held the water supply to the rubber estate for the workers to wash and drink.

    This lab was once owned by an international mining company. I am talking about the seventies when I had this experience.

    Health and Safety was not such a priority then.

  2. felicia says:

    Once again you’ve left us with a thought-provoking statement.

    I couldn’t agree more, Ngai. Yes….sadly, safety was not really a priority back then.
    I wonder if the rubber estates back then had a similar problem…

    • Ngai C O says:

      Hi felicia,

      I must have breathed in a fair bit of asbestos fibre over the years.

      I sometimes wonder why I have not had the symtoms of asbestosis.
      If I did who to approach to seek redress.

      I recall a Malay chap, who was responsible for the furnace and bagging the tin concentrate, often complained to me he often had chest pain and breathing difficulty. At the time, I thought he was just trying to skive.

      Had I known then and if an effective Health and Safety Policy was in place, I would have reported the matter.

      I also drank the water from pond when colleagues made tea with it. Luckily, the company changed its mind and moved the lab back to its original location after less than a year.

      Conditions in rubber estates were no better. Many resorted to toddy drinking to ease the stress and pressure. Physical and sexual abuse of wives and children were rampant. We in the outside world never heard about these occurances.

      The tuans had a good time. Who in positions of power would willingly come forward and testify.

      Although the estate employees had a strong union, their energy was concentrated on pay and working and living conditions.

      I am not sure about the wife and children beating.

  3. NCK says:

    The concern of workers’ health and safety only advances with the society. When I visited Yangon more than ten years ago, I saw legions of women working on construction sites, each in her longyi (pronounced ‘lon-gee’, Myanmar’s version of sarong) and flip-flops. You are right to guess there wasn’t any safety gear they wore. They would perform menial tasks like transporting bricks from one spot to another, moving in a single file with wicker baskets balanced on their heads.

    • NCK says:

      When an experienced engineer in the position of construction manager was paid a paltry US$45 a month, I guess a safety helmet or a pair of safety boots would be worth the equivalent of a few months’ wages of a worker.

  4. Ngai C O says:


    Leong Fee’s Tambun Mines had the highest recorded tin concentrate per cubic meter of tin bearing soil at a whopping 20,000 grams.

    Foo Choo Choon’ Tronoh Mines at 11,000 grams

    The average during these miners’ times were 4,000 grams.

    By the 1990′s, the average recoverable tin concentrate was 120 grams per cubic meter of soil dug. This could make a handsome profit.

    Source – The Osborne And Chappel Story, Chapter 11.

    As written elsewhere in Ipoh World, Leong Fee partnered an English man to grow coffee in Tambun, which was not successful. The latter sold his share to Leong Fee, who in turn striked gold when he discovered tin below.

    Whilst reading up on Leong Fee, I came to know for the first time that the temple next to the People’s Park was built by him.

    It goes to show there is still a lot about Ipoh’ past which I do not know.

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