Sawahlunto, Indonesia

General Information

Regional secretariat

Administrative status

City in West Sumatra province

Ombilin Coal Mining Heritage of Sawahlunto

Registration Year


Historical function

Industrial and commercial

Location and site

Built for the extraction, processing and transport of high-quality coal in an inaccessible region of Sumatra, this industrial site was developed by the Netherlands East Indies’ government in the globally important period of industrialisation from the late 19th to the beginning of the 20th century. The workforce was recruited from the local Minangkabau people and supplemented by Javanese and Chinese contract workers, and convict labourers from Dutch-controlled areas. It comprises the mining site and company town, coal storage facilities at the port of Emmahaven and the railway network linking the mines to the coastal facilities. The Ombilin Coal Mining Heritage was built as an integrated system that enabled the efficient deep-bore extraction, processing, transport and shipment of coal. It is also an outstanding testimony of exchange and fusion between local knowledge and practices and European technology.

Urban Morphology

Built to exploit the exceedingly rich Ombilin coal deposits, located in the inaccessible mountains of West Sumatra, the Ombilin Coal Mining Heritage of Sawahlunto is an extensive technological ensemble consisting of twelve components located in three functionally-related areas: Area A, consisting of open pit mines and labyrinthine underground mining tunnels together with on-site coal processing facilities, supported by a full-facility purpose-built mining town nearby at Sawahlunto; Area B, an ingeniously engineered rack mountain railway together with numerous rail bridges and tunnels, linking the mines to the coastal seaport, across 155 kilometres of rugged mountain terrain; and Area C, a dredged harbour and newly-constructed seaport at Emmahaven on Sumatra’s Indian Ocean coast from where the coal was shipped throughout the Netherlands East Indies and to Europe.

Registration criteria

Criterion (ii): Ombilin Coal Mining Heritage of Sawahlunto exhibits a significant interchange of mining technology between Europe and its colonies during the second half of the 19th century and early 20th century. This complex technological ensemble was planned and built as a fully-integrated system designed to enable efficient deep-bore extraction, processing, transport and shipment of industrial-quality coal. Its overall design and staged execution shows a systematic and prolonged transfer of engineering knowledge and mining practices intended to develop the mining industry in the Netherlands East Indies. This was further shaped by local knowledge concerning geological formations in the tropical environment, and by local traditional practices.

Criterion (iv): Ombilin Coal Mining Heritage of Sawahlunto is an outstanding example of a technological ensemble designed for maximum efficiency in the extraction of a key, strategic natural resource – in this case industrial grade coal. It illustrates characteristics of the later stage of global industrialisation in the second half of the 19th century and early 20th century, when engineering technologies and complex systems of production gave rise to the globalised economy of industry and commerce. The engineering technologies included deep bore vertical tunneling of mine shafts, mechanical ore washing and sorting, steam locomotion and rack railway, inclined and reverse-arc rail bridge construction, rock-blast railroad tunnels, deep-dredge harbours, and coal storage in climate-controlled silos. These were complemented by the construction of a purpose-built, planned modern mining town of more than 7000 inhabitants complete with all facilities – housing, food service, health, education, spiritual, and recreational – designed to cater to a strictly hierarchical structure of industrialisation and division of labour.




Mr. Fauzan Hasan

Acting Mayor
Government of Sawahlunto

Soekarno Hatta St.No.3, Lubang Panjang
Sawahlunto, West Sumatra, Indonesia

+62 811-8882-0122
[email protected]

Mrs. Debbie Hallen

Head of Cultural Heritage and Museums Department
Cultural Office of Sawahlunto City

Jend.Sudirman St. No.3, Aur Mulyo, Lembah Segar
Sawahlunto, West Sumatra, Indonesia

[email protected]

Mr. Roni Armis

Development Planning Board

Soekarno Hatta St.No.3, Lubang Panjang, Barangin
Sawahlunto, West Sumatera, Indonesia

+62 081266879229
[email protected]