Coal was discovered in this area by Dutch engineer WH. De Gereve in 1868. Mining started at the open-pit mine in 1892 after the construction of a railway. In the pre-independence period, coal production peaked in 1930, at more than 620,000 tonnes a year. In 1942–1945, the mine was controlled by Japan. In 1945–1958, the mine was managed by the directorate of mining and in 1958–1968, by the bureau of state mining companies. In 1968, it became the Ombilin production unit of the state coal mining company. Production peaked in 1976 at 1,201,846 tonnes per year.
Until 2002 it operated as an open-pit mine. After that, only underground mine continues operating. In recent times, CNTIC has invested $100 million to the mine.
On 2011, the region continues to bring benefits to its constituents through reforestation of the former mining location and its conversion into a tourist destination. A well maintenance pit with sufficient lighting and air supply from blower attract local and foreign tourists mainly from Malaysia and Singapore. Seeing the pit cost Rp.30,000 (US$3.5) per person.