Before the discovery of oil, Miri consisted
of a few straggling huts by a Black River.
Local residents were aware of the special
nature of the greasy sludge that oozed from
the ground here and there; with due
caution it could be used as lighting fuel.
Mr. Claude de Crespigny, Resident of
Baram, reported the presence of ‘earth oil’
in 1882, but it was not until two decades
later that the commercial potential of this
natural phenomenon was realised.
Dr. Charles Hose, a ‘Rajah’s (King’s)
Servant’ still remembered for his resource,
his wit and his immense girth, organized
the drilling of an exploratory well on top of
a hill on August 10, 1910. Within four
months, oil was struck at a depth of 123
metres. The first well on the hilltop, now affectionately dubbed ‘Grand Old Lady’,
remained productive until 1972.
By 1917 the Miri oil boom was in full
spate. Foreign labours flocked in from
places like Singapore, India, and Hong
Kong, augmented by local brawn and
muscle. Expatriate staff arrived from
England and Holland; for a few years
conditions in the hastily erected shantytown
The town gradually grew. By 1921 it had 40
shophouses, one English school, and one
Production of oil reached over 65,000 tons
in 1922, adding welcomed revenue to the
White Rajah’s treasury. During World
War 1, Miri supplied 267,000 tons of oil
to the British Navy.
Miri was designated the administrative
centre of the Baram region, the Resident’s
office was shifted here from Marudi. In 1929,
Miri was visited by Rajah Charles Vyner
Brooke — a proud moment for the town.
The depression years did not leave Miri
unscathed, but life went on; the predilection
for rowing, cricket and football, which
united expatriate and local sportsmen,
survived and prospered even into the
During the Japanese Occupation of 1941-
1945 the oil fields were fiercely fought over,
resulting in considerable hardship for the
In the 60’s, oil exploration moved offshore.
When production reached 95,000 barrels a
day, Petronas, the National Oil Company,
made Lutong the hub of oil productio nactivities in Miri.
Miri shared the boom of the 1980s and 90s.
The face of the town changed with the
construction of suburban housing, multistorey
commercial complexes and
international class hotels. Tourism thrives;
Miri came to be known as ‘Sarawak’s
Prosperity draws population. Miri’s 300,000
inhabitants are Malays, Chinese, Ibans,
Orang Ulu, Melanau, Bidayuh, Penan with
quite a sprinkling of expatriates happily
living in harmony and are proud to
contribute to make Miri a Resort City.
The petroleum industry is still an important
employer, but it is the Kuala Baram
Industrial Estate that provides the bulk of
jobs for the thousands who now consider
Miri their home.