How the Tin Mining Company S.E.K. Developed
Written by Lim Chia Pei
Edited by SM Ang
KAMPAR, 14 August 2012: Renowned historian Mr. Chye
Kooi Loong, 84, was in UTAR
(IDK6, Perak Campus) recently to speak to us on How the Tin Mining Company
S.E.K. Developed Kampar Town. The auditorium where the talk was held in was
packed with students, eager to know what he had to say about Kampar town's
history and the role played by the French tin mining company Societe Anonyme Des Etains De Kinta (S.E.K.) in the town's development.
Mr. Chye, born
and bred here in Kampar, is also a retired Anglo Chinese School Kampar teacher.
Moreover, he has been awarded 'Member of the Most Excellent Order of the
British Empire' (MBE) for his contributions in writing about the history of British
soldiers' gallant bravery during World War Two and their services to Malaya.
In his talk, Mr. Chye
said that S.E.K. was the first French (i.e. European) tin mining company in
Perak. The company S.E.K., established in 1883 and operated until it was sold to
the Perak state government and Chin Pek Suo Company in 1977, had provided employment to many
locals, including his own father who had worked as an accountant there for 35
Looking back, he told us how tin mining
became important in Perak. It was in the early 1800s when engineers from
France, Britain, Australia, and Canada came to Perak to investigate the
possibility of setting up businesses to mine tin. This was in accordance with
Perak Resident, Sir Hugh Low's encouragement of foreign investment in tin
mining activities in the state. In 1880, a visit of the Kinta Valley in Perak by
Brot De Staint-Paul-Lias and Errington de la Croix proved
to be an important milestone for Malaya's tin mining industry. The following year,
de la Croix wrote in his report that 'There is no doubt that the whole region
lying west of Gunung Bujang
Melaka will prove to be one of the richest fields in the whole state.'
According to Mr. Chye,
de la Croix's observation was very accurate and prophetic. That earmarked area which
de la Croix had described included Kampar and it became one of the world's greatest
mining towns. Moreover, it was also capable of keeping 25,000 miners employed
for 100 years.
"Nobody believes it, this fantastic
story," he said.
Mr. Chye also
recounted how S.E.K. was first established. It started out as Societe Des Miner d'Etain de
Perak (SMEP) and the company had started mining tin in Gopeng
(Klian Lallang) and Lahat. Then, later, in 1885, it also mined tin in Kuala Dipang. Finally, in 1886, S.E.K. was formed after absorbing
According to Mr. Chye,
S.E.K. had also built the first hydro-electric power station in Perak on Sungai
Rawang in 1906. It was situated just south of Kampar
town and had supplied power to the mines in Kampar and Temoh.
He also reminded us that it is important to find out more information about the
establishment of this first hydro-electric power station.
S.E.K. had also signed an agreement with
the Perak state government to move the Kampar Railway Station, padang (i.e. field) and hospital
areas in Kampar when it found that there were rich tin fields in these places.
recalled that when S.E.K. finally gave up its 94 years of tin mining activities
in Kampar and its surrounding areas in 1977, the company had already contributed
employment and fortunes to the local people. "Many of us studied here; all of
our existence were centred on the company S.E.K.," he
"Some have made success in Australia,
Canada and U.S.A" "I was very surprised during my many trips to U.K. to find that
many of the professors in the British universities were former members of ACS
Kampar," he added.
Before Mr. Chye
ended his talk, he mentioned that it is very unfortunate for Malaysia that
there are so few people who record the history of their own town. He said that
if young people want to learn to do so, they should begin by researching the
After the talk, Mr. Chye
took questions from the audience.
He mentioned that the Europeans destroyed
all their tin mining equipment before they fled the country when the Japanese arrived
in Malaya during World War Two. Moreover, the remaining properties were
confiscated by the Japanese after they had successfully occupied Malaya. After
the war ended, S.E.K. had to replace its lost properties with the help of the
According to Mr. Chye,
S.E.K. entered its booming period during the Korean War when the demand for tin
ore increased. At that time, which is during the 1950s, the company had employed
Mr. Chye smiled
when he mentioned the warlike Hakkas during those
times. Most of the Chinese involved in tin mining activities in S.E.K. was Hakkas. He said that one of the reasons why there was
conflict and fights among them was because the Hakkas
had the habit of "snatching women or wives" from others. He said that the
number of Chinese women in Kampar was limited then and the local Malay women
did not want to marry the tin miners, perhaps due to cultural or religious
reasons. Therefore, there was much competition for women amongst the male tin
miners. The audience, which consisted of mostly young people, was very much
captivated by this story because it is something very unusual for them.
Finally, at the end of the session, Mr. Chye and his wife were invited to take photo with the
organizer, Dr Wong Wun Bin,
Head of the Chinese Malaysian and Cultural Studies Unit, Centre for Chinese
Studies Research, UTAR. Dr Wong had also earlier
presented Mr. Chye with a token of appreciation in
the form of a UTAR mug. The talk was chaired by Ms Ang Siew, the member of CCSR and Senior
Lecturer of Faculty of Arts and Social Science, UTAR .