11 June 2013: Osborne & Chappell: a short history of tin mining from colonial times

The unique story of Osborne & Chappel and the rise and fall of tin mining in Malaya…

osborne-1 The story of how Britain became involved in Malaya’s tin mining industry takes us back to the 19th century. On one side, there was an industrial revolution which resulted in a growing demand for tin, and on the other, a country that was rich in alluvial tin deposits. Both sides would benefit from the business arrangement that would tie the two regions together for years to come. In 1901, two British expats, F.D. Osborne & W.R.H. Chappel, made inroads into the Malay heartland to venture into the booming tin mining business, setting up two offices in Ipoh and Gopeng. Their mission was to provide consultancy, engineering, management and agency services for the Gopeng and Kinta tin mining companies. With a company history spanning over a century, The Osborne and Chappel Story provides not only the annals of an historical organisation – it also portrays in-depth the heritage, history and early development of Perak.

osborne-2Fittingly, the authors of The Osborne and Chappel Story, David Palmer and Michael Joll are former employees of the company. The narration the two provide is well-paced and written in a style that presents an easy and enjoyable read, even for those not typically inclined towards company histories or tin mining. The book is divided into four parts, including a section dedicated to the technical aspects of tin mining. The last part, Memorabilia, bookends the story with a collection of photos of O&C staff over the years and of the tin mining process. Malaysia’s position as a leading tin exporter effectively ended in the mid-80s with the crashing of the world tin market and a price plunge of some 50%, factors which caused many tin mines to close. The days of Osborne & Chappel’s position at the forefront of tin mining were numbered. Although they still maintain their Ipoh office, the company has since diverted into mining consultancy and quarry services.