Batu Arang will soon be made a heritage town according to Selangor Mentri Besar Tan Sri Khalid Ibrahim. He said the status would be given to increase the economic prospects of the people in the area and make it a tourist attraction in Selangor.
Coal was first found in Batu Arang in the early 1900s and a study in 1910 revealed that mining was commercially viable. In June 1913, a British coal miner, John Archibald Russell, formed the Malayan Collieries Ltd to start mining operations in Batu Arang. Because of the high demand of coal, the mining activities were operating round the clock employing 5,000 miners in three shifts. In the early years, Batu Arang became the most developed town in Selangor and was known to local residents as Mini Gold Hill.
By the 1930s the developing town had an airstrip, a railway line, Gurkha’s police base, police station and a brick factory. There were also houses for the miners, British officers and bungalows for the mine managers. Today, the airstrip and railway line are only just memories in pictures.
The railway line used to connect the town to the mainline of Malayan Railways at Kuang, which was opened in 1915, and westwards to Batang Berjuntai which was opened in 1918. In 1971 Malayan Railways shut down the line and dismantled the tracks with introduction of more diesel locomotives into its fleet; up to that point Batu Arang was the only source of coal for its steam locomotives.
However, the air wells of the mines could be still seen covered in undergrowth. The air well was dug to a depth of 330m and there are hundreds of tunnels underground stretching the entire town of Batu Arang. And this is why there are no five-storey buildings in the town or development that requires piling work.
In 1948 the Malayan Communist Party seized the town's police station, killing one, as well as holding people at the local railway station hostage. Batu Arang was a hotbed of communism and the authorities had problems eradicating the menace due to the hilly terrain which gave the communist guerillas advantage in launching ambushes and hiding away after such attacks.
In the 1930s, only the Batu Arang mine was still operational and offered jobs to residents. The mining operations ended in 1960. About 15 million tonnes of coal was mined over 47 years raking in RM163mil in the 1960s.
Batu Arang suffers from serious soil erosion problem due to the deep-earth coal mining activities, and consequently much of its original area had been evacuated.
- Brief History on Batu Arang, The Star, Sept 10, 2011.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Batu Arang.|
- Modern Day Batu Arang in pictures
- Sleepy Hollow With a Rich Mining Legacy
- Batu Arang railway station, c1915