About Miri
· Introduction to Miri
· History
· How to Get There
· City Map
· The People

A Brief Miri History

Miri History

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 were chaotic.

The town gradually grew. By 1921 it had 40 shophouses, one English school, and one Chinese school. 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 21st century!

During the Japanese Occupation of 1941- 1945 the oil fields were fiercely fought over, resulting in considerable hardship for the local population. 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 Northern Gateway.’

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.

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