Charcoal Factory , Kuala Sepetang


The charcoal factory in Matang (Kuala Sepetang) is located right in the middle of a spectacular mangrove forest since 1940 . Mangrove forest is an important part of the ecosystems around the world and in Malaysia there is fortunately quite some left . It all start with harvesting the mangrove trees . The trees need a certain size which is reached after 30 years . When an area is harvested , new trees are planted and that area is not touched then for 30 years .


A charcoal factory with traditional charcoal kilns . here, in Matang, the charcoal is made from greenwood (kayu bakau minyak) , The logs which are approximately five feet long, are stored outside the factory. They are sorted out by their diameter. Those of suitable diameter for making charcoal are stripped of their thick bark; the narrower ones will be used as fuel to provide the heat to make the charcoal .


The logs are then lined up outside each kiln ready for the next round of production . There are six of these kilns in this factory, each of these are about thirty feet in diameter and thirty feet high . This particular kiln has its front opening sealed off, there are logs inside in the process of turning into good quality charcoal . The amazing thing about these kilns are that they are built by hand from clay bricks with clay mortar bonding them together. Clay cools down at a slower rate and thus maintain the heat of the kiln longer .


Once the kiln is full of logs , the previously man-height opening is partly sealed of until only a smaller opening about 3-foot high . smaller logs are used as fire-wood and are burnt at the entrance , the kiln has only a few small piped openings on the top to vent out smoke . This minimise air from entering inside. Without oxygen, the logs heats up without burning until they are super dry and turn to charcoal .


Since the factory uses greenwood harvested from the mangrove and these trees are transported by boat , it is naturally located next to a stream that connects to the river .


The first stage of this process takes around 8 to 10 days . After 10 days the cone is completely shut off. The baking process continues on a temperature of around 83°C. It takes another 12 to 14 days to complete. Then the cooling process starts, this takes another 8 days before the hole in the cone is opened . All the water is now vaporized out of the wood and the charcoal should look shiny black. The workers now get the charcoal out of the still hot cone and it is sorted, put in bags or transported in a whole log . The production of charcoal is a very time consuming process. Almost all of the process is manually done. People in Kuala Sepetang, Matang and other small villages in the area have a living from the mangrove charcoal factory . 


Jalan Taiping - Kuala Sepetang, Kuala Sepetang, 
34650 Kuala Sepetang, Perak, Malaysia

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