Jakarta, CNBC Indonesia – Basically no one knows what will happen to people in the future. That’s roughly what happened to a mining engineer from the Netherlands named Jacobus Hubertus Menten. Menten was originally an engineer with the Dutch mining service. While exploring Kalimantan, he accidentally found a new source of oil. This oil source was not only successful in changing Menten himself, but also the course of Kalimantan’s history. What’s the story?
Please note, Jacobus Hubertus Menten is a mining engineer who graduated from the Delft Polytechnic, the Netherlands. From his expertise, he worked at the Mining Department of the Dutch East Indies and was assigned to many areas. Starting from Bangka, Bogor and Kalimantan. However, it was his assignment in Kalimantan that ultimately changed Menten’s way of life.
On the Equator Island, Menten was originally assigned to look for coal around the Mahakam River in 1882. There were no obstacles during the search. He also succeeded in finding coal and managed to establish good relations with the Sultan of Kutai, Aji Muhammad Sulaiman. In fact, thanks to that relationship, he was given more privileges by the Sultan in the form of coal mining concession rights.
However, in order to be freer to take advantage of this privilege, he chose to retire early from the Mining Service. According to Burhan Djabier Magenda in East Kalimantan: The Decline of a Commercial Aristocracy (2018), immediately after retiring, Menten immediately collaborated with Steenkolen Maatschappij Oost Borneo (SMOB) to search for coal mining locations.
It was during this search process that something completely unexpected happened. While exploring the interior of Borneo, he suddenly saw an oil seep coming out of the rocks. That’s when he immediately thought that it was a resource of high value more than just coal, namely petroleum.
Without further ado, Handri Yonathan and Petrik Matanasi wrote in Take Balikpapan (2020), he immediately asked for a petroleum exploitation concession permit covering the entire Kutai area. The Sultan of Kutai also agreed and signed a concession permit for Menten on 29 August 1888.
However, the oil drilling process could not be carried out because the Dutch East Indies Government had not received permission and there was no capital.
As a result, while waiting for the permit, the Minister of Ten was looking for companies to finance. Unfortunately, this effort ended in failure. Menten is always ignored by many companies when submitting drilling proposals. They are not interested because they think that the Kutai region does not have potential qualified resources.
Luckily, of the many rejections, one piece of good news came from Shell Transport and Trading Ltd. The London-based company is interested in donating £1,200 for oil drilling in Kutai. With this money, the Minister of Agriculture founded his own company called Nederlandsch Indische Industrie en Handel Maatschappij (NHIM).
Immediately after obtaining capital and permission, drilling was carried out in 1896. He brought hundreds of workers to start drilling for oil over the years. In the end, the results were in accordance with Menten’s prediction: under the ground in Kutai there really was super-abundant petroleum in two different places which became known as Wells Louise and Wells Mathilda.
Thanks to that discovery, Menten immediately became the ‘sultan’. The high demand for oil in Europe has added to his wealth. So did Sultan Kutai and NIHM. Everyone’s wealth increased after NIHM succeeded in producing oil reaching 32,618 barrels per year. This achievement made all companies that initially rejected Menten’s proposal flock to Kalimantan.
From here, there was a migration of people working as manual laborers to try their luck in Kalimantan. Slowly, around the two wells, two new cities in East Kalimantan were built, namely Kutai Kartanegara and Balikpapan. Both then became centers of high economy. Now, in the two cities, a new Indonesian capital will be built.
Over time, the first two oil wells in Kalimantan changed managers. From the beginning NIHM, then Bataafsche Petroleum Maatschappij (a joint venture between Royal Dutch and Shell), and is now managed by PT Pertamina EP Asset 5, a business unit of PT Pertamina (Persero), and is known as the Sangasanga Field.