A city does not earn the nickname 'the city of millionaires' for no good reason and the entrepreneurial spirit of the citizens of Ipoh shone through during nine booming decades from the 1890's when tin was king and Malaysia the worlds largest exporter of the commodity.
Many commodities go through peak to trough cycles and tin was no exception when oversupply and a lack of demand in the 1980's caused the price of tin to plummet resulting in many Perak mines to close or be mothballed.
Perak agriculture is famous for is the Bean Sprout that is part of the famous bean sprout chicken dish that is so popular in many Perak restaurants making it the states signature dish.
For centuries for coastal villages of Perak have been responsible for the design and manufacture of traditional boats made form the locally grown hardwood Chengal.
In these days of hedge funds, international commodity traders and derivatives it is impossible to say if the price of a small commodity like tin will not slump but there are many positive indicators that suggest it will not and in the true Perakian entrepreneurial spirit the Perak business community is re-igniting the industry that created Ipoh the city of millionaires.
The Perak state government is lending its support to reinvigorating the tin mining industry by enacting the Mineral Act that protects explorers and their mining rights and minimises risk in this capital intensive mining business.
One such Perak business that is looking to take advantage of this situation is HWG Tin Mining whose operation in Sungai Endah, Hulu Perak has a licence to mine its 202ha of land until May 2018. The company has plans to commence production before the end of 2010 when they will start to mine their estimated 50,000 tonnes of reserves.
In 2010 California passed a state law preventing the sale of electronic goods that fail to meet European standards thus increasing demand for tin (Californias economy is larger than most countries!). Speculation persists that the whole US will pursue this policy further intensifying the demand for tin.
One little known but very important point regarding tin is that a few years ago solder used about 40% lead and 60% tin but because of health issues regarding lead the Chinese and European producers of electronic goods were legally obliged to alter its composition and use solder with 97.5% tin leading to a 20% global increase in the demand for tin.
Tins melting point is low making it an ideal metal for this purpose and every single electronic device with a circuit board in it contains tin.
Some commentators say tin is in a bubble after being one of the star commodities of 2010 but if you scratch beneath the surface the supply cannot meet the current demand for the metal.
With the price of tin standing at over US$26,000 per tonne (Oct 2010) it is again making economic sense for Perak business to seek out opportunities in tin mining.
Steady rises in the commodity since then have been eclipsed with large rises in the price of tin even emulating the mid 2008 height of US$25,500 per tonne.
The worldwide commodities market that had been steadfastly rising through the years of globalisation and massive growth finally invited tin to the party in 2006 and prices rose quickly to peak in 2008 before the financial crisis brought tin to its knees as it again slumped to US$10,350 per tonne in December 2008.
The nature of cycles mean that one day the trend will reverse but the hardest thing to do is predicting when this will happen, timing is everything and a speculator could easily lose his shirt by getting this wrong.
The Teluk Intan Boatyards in Perak are a successful cottage industry located 1 km from the town. The boatyards are renowned for their quality and the craftsmen use methods handed down by their forefathers who recognised the value of Chengal wood because of its toughness and durability in both fresh and salt water.
A famed Perak fruit also benefitting from Peraks mineral rich land is the Pomelo which has become synonymous with Ipoh.
Tin is not the only legendary commodity in Perak as it is thought that the mineral rich waters running beneath the state is responsible for producing many fertile rich areas conducive for crop growing.
Perak Tin Mining
Teluk Intan Boatyards
The bean sprouts grown in Perak tend to be thicker, heavier and much more tastier than those grown elsewhere and the fertile Perak soil and pure Perak water pumped to the surface to water the crop are regarded as key ingredients in achieving this tasty result.
The Tambun Pomelo Orchards in Ipoh were granted a 99 year lease in February 2010 guaranteeing continued cultivation on the reputed best pomelo growing soils in Malaysia.
Yes, Perak business was booming.
Ipoh, The City Of Millionaires
There are indications that the price will stabilise and many speculators are predicting the price will go higher, but is this new found optimism on tin justified?
Most people associate tin with canned food stacked on supermarket shelves but while this use will continue it will be outstripped by its use in the manufacture of solder.