Monday, June 20, 2011

I did it mine-way! Malaysian-born Chong among Aussie’s richest

    MELBOURNE: A man from humble beginnings in Cameron Highlands is today Australia’s wealthiest Malay­sian-born, with a fortune of A$950mil (RM3.06bil) made from coal mining.

    Sam Chong, 68, kept a low profile and managed to avoid the limelight until last week when the Business Review Weekly (BRW) named him in its “Rich 200” list.

    Publicity-shy Chong, a mining engineer, is rarely mentioned in the Australian media and when Bernama rang him up in Brisbane, where he lives, he was reluctant to talk of his success as one of Australia’s biggest coal miners.

    He also declined to talk of his dedication and hard work and the many years it had taken him to achieve his ambition.

    According to the BRW, Chong’s ascent to the ranks of Australia’s richest illustrates the rapid rise in the price of coking coal used to produce iron from its ore.

    Chong owns a substantial share of Jellinbah Resources, which operates two coal mines and is in the process of developing another.

    Production has reached eight million tonnes a year but expansion is expected to boost production to 12 million tonnes a year by 2013.

    BRW said Chong also benefited greatly from the quality of the ore in his deposits.

    “Coking coal commands much higher prices than coal for power generation and Chinese demand is pushing them even higher,” the magazine said.

    After growing up in Cameron Highlands, where he still has fond memories of living in one of the shophouses in Tanah Rata’s main street, Chong went to Ipoh for his secondary education and then to Taiwan to pursue his studies in engineering, the magazine said.

    He moved to Australia in 1973 for post-graduate studies in mining engineering at the University of New South Wales.

    After graduating, Chong worked for several companies before finally settling in Queensland’s Bowen Basin, a region that produces nearly two-thirds of the world’s coking coal.

    BRW said Chong’s career was given a big boost by working at Queensland Coal Mine Management with former “Rich 200” members Jim Gorman and the late Ken Talbot in the 1980s.

    These days, Chong serves as a non-executive director of Jellinbah which gives him time to spend on other investments.

    “Not content with building significant wealth from coal, Chong is branching out into iron ore and property,” BRW said.

    He has also acquired two office buildings in Brisbane in the past five years.

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