Lubang Mbah Suro

Mbah Suro Mine - Sawahlunto Coal Mine Museum - Ombilin Coal Mine

Useful Information

Location: Sawahlunto, Padang, Sumatra
Fee: Lubang Mbah Suro: Adults Rp 7,500.
Train ride: Adults Rp 50,000.
Classification: MineCoal Mine
Light: LightIncandescent Electric Light System
Guided tours:
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1867 coal discovered by Dutch engineer Willem Hendrik De Greve.
1891 coal mines started by the Dutch government.
2000 decline of coal mining.
2004 coal mining ended.
2005 mining museum opened.
2019 inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List.



The city of Sawahlunto in West Sumatra has a rich heritage in coal mining. The coal was discovered in 1867, while Sumatra was a Dutch colony, by the Dutch engineer Willem Hendrik de Greve. At this time there was only a small hamlet. The village grew and in 1888 the Dutch government gave it the status Gemeente (small town). In 1891 the Dutch government opened their first coal mine in the city. For more than 100 years the coal mining dominated the growing city, which today has some 50,000 inhabitants. The decline of the coal mining from 2001 on forced the government to search for alternative sources of income, and so the mining heritage is now preserved and presented in several museums.

The Lubang Mbah Suro (Tunnel of Mbah Suro) is the coal museum, located in an abandoned coal mine tunnel in the heart of the city. Visitors are equipped with boots and a helmet and experience what it is like to work as a coal miner. The museum tells about mining technology and working conditions. It also tells about the orang rantai (chained people), prisoners from all over the Dutch colonies which were forced to work in the coal mine. They were chained during work, hence the name.

The tunnel is named after the foreman of the orang rantai, Mbah Suro. He was a very strong man and had five children and thirteen grandchildren. He died before 1930. The colliery is entered down a staircase to a level 15 m below ground. The restored passage is 186 m long.

Gudang Ransum Museum (rations warehouse museum) is located in the former miners mess hall, which was built in 1918. The Dutch government provided food for the orang rantai coal miners. The museum has various various kitchen utensils and photographs depicting life in the city in the old days. Most impressive are the four meter high fireplace and a number of cooking pots with a diameter of 132 cm and a depth of 62 cm. The heating system is unique: coal was burned to produce steam, which was transported to the cooking places in long pipes, a system built in Germany. The kitchen produced about 2,000 meals daily.

The railroad museum is located at the Sawahlunto train station. The railroad and the station were opened in 1894. The main purpose of the train was the transport coal to Emma Haven, which is today called Teluk Bayur seaport. The exhibition inlcudes locomotives and train cars, signals and historic photographs. Train rides on historic trains across the city are offered too. The steam locomotive is nicknamed Mak Itam (The Black Lady) and was built in Germany.