THERE is a chance to steer the country’s tin mining industry towards a new direction if new uses for the metal can be found.
Second International Trade and Industry Minister Datuk Seri Ong Ka Chuan, said with material science becoming increasingly more advanced, research into tin could give the sunset industry “a new lease of life”.
“Currently, we have a centre in London, but research done there is not extensive.
“We are looking to get expertise from Germany and China because these countries are also major players in the tin industry.
“With the entire world integrated into one large market today, there is a lot of new technology that we can learn from advanced countries to identify downstream uses for tin,” he said at the opening of Tin Mining Festival 2016 at the Kinta Tin Mining (Gravel Pump) Museum in Kampar last Sunday.
Ong said downstream sector for raw materials is important for revenue enhancement, otherwise the market prices of raw materials remain stagnant.
“The export of raw materials make up only 15% of revenue, whereas manufactured products contribute the other 82%.
“Just like raw rubber when sold in its pure form, we don’t get much in return, but once manufactured into surgical gloves, we are able to supply 60% of the world’s demand,” he said.
Ong cited graphene, a new form of carbon, as an example of how new discoveries in materials and their uses can occur. Carbon when turned into graphene is much more valuable than its original form.
“More research and development done on tin in collaboration with bigger countries to identify new properties and uses, could pave the way towards the revival of the industry,” he said
The Tin Mining Festival 2016 was held by the Perak Chinese Mining Association in collaboration with the founder and original curator of the museum to celebrate the founding of the mining association, as well as to recognise the activities and struggles of pioneering communities in Perak.
Speaking about the second edition of the festival, Universiti Tunku Abdul Rahman Vice President for Student Development and Alumni Relations Prof Dr Choong Chee Keong said the festival transforms the past 100 years of tin mining history into a cultural event celebrated by local communities.
“I hope that this will attract more youths to venture into, develop and popularise cultural tourism, so that one day, this festival will not only be celebrated in Kampar, but throughout Perak and the entire country as well,” he said.
During the festival, a book titled The Tin Industry of the Past for the Future was launched. The book was edited and compiled by Utar Centre for Chinese Studies Chairman Assoc Prof Dr Wong Wun Bin.
To help visitors to festival gain insight into the Kinta Valley’s rich history in tin mining , a series of tin mining-themed activities were organised, including guided tours, games, poetry recitals, singing sessions and demonstrations of “dulang washing” technique of mining for tin.
Oct 24 was chosen by the mining association as the day to celebrate the Tin Festival to commemorate the day in 1985 when the tin market collapsed.
Tin mining was a thriving industry which contributed significantly to the country’s economic growth in the 19th century.
On the day before the festival, the association and the museum teamed up with Utar Centre for Chinese Studies and organised an international conference titled Perak’s Prominent Pioneers in the Tin Mining Industry (1848-1957)”
The inaugural international conference was launched by State Executive Councillor Datuk Dr Mah Hang Soon and saw a line-up of presenters including academicians from Malaysia, Taiwan and Macau presenting findings on prominent tin mining industry pioneers.
These pioneers made their mark in the Kinta Valley’s economic and educational development through various contributions.
Among the names discussed in the conference were Chung Keng Kwee, Chin Ah Yam, Ng Boo Bee, Leong Fee, Foo Choo Choon, Foo Choong Yit, Eu Tong Sen, Chung Thye Phin and Lau Pak Khuan.