The Labuan Chimney is a well-known and often-photographed attraction on the island.
Built in the early 1900s, this historical landmark is a remnant of Labuan’s coal mining era, which peaked under the administration of the British North Borneo Chartered Company.
Measuring over 32 m (106 ft) in height, the imposing structure is made from over 23,000 pieces of unplastered red bricks imported from Britain.
Conservation work on the chimney’s tower undertaken by Malaysia’s Department of Museums was globally recognized in 2013 when Labuan Corporation became a bronze medal winner of the Green Apple Awards for the Built Environment and Architectural Heritage, a prestigious award scheme recognizing and rewarding environmental endeavour around the world.
There is a museum and information centre on site, detailing the history of Tanjong Kubong’s coal mining industry going back to 1847. Officiated in 2002, the Chimney Museum’s two-storey building design was inspired by the architecture of a colonial school building in Labuan.
The ground floor showcases Labuan’s glorious period as Borneo’s largest coal producer, including the development of a railway transport system believed to be among the earliest in Malaysia. The first floor gallery highlights the history of Labuan Chimney, whose real function remains a mystery till this day.
The chimney tower was originally thought to be a ventilation shaft for brick or iron smelting facilities or nearby underground mines. However, recent excavations revealed no tunnel beneath and no traces of smoke or burning to suggest its use as a chimney as popularly believed, making the tower’s existence and purpose a puzzle.
Various theories have surfaced regarding its existence. Some believe it used to be part of an unfinished mansion or a bell tower for signalling the arrival of ships, while others claim it to be a lighthouse due to its location near the ocean and the existence of an adjacent port called Raffles Anchorage.
Whatever the truth, this landmark is a unique testament to the heyday of coal mining in Labuan.
The Chimney Museum displays a collection of 612 historical artifacts unearthed during conservation work and archaelogical excavations naer the Chimney site and Tanjong Kubong’s vicinity.
These include specimens of ancient coal and geological rocks, brass opium containers (bekas candu), ceramic artifacts and various equipment left behind by the coal miners, the remains of a coal transport locomotive that once operated in Labuan, and the Chimney tower’s original bricks produced in the 19th century by a well-known British manufacturer.
Visitors may board Mini Bus No. 6 from the town centre, at a fare of ~RM3.50, to reach the Labuan Chimney and museum complex.
Opening hours: 8.30am – 5.00pm daily. Closed on the first Monday of every month (subject to change). Closed on the first day of Hari Raya Aidilfitri and Aidiladha.
Entry fee: Free of charge
Telephone: +6087 463 603