Labuan, in northern Borneo, was ceded to Great Britain by the Sultan of Bruneiin 1846. The British used the island initially as a naval base from which tocounteract the activities of pirates from Brunei, and as a strategic refuellingstation for steamships. However, as its lack of economic and strategic importancebecame evident, it passed through a number of different administrations. Initially ceded toJames Brooke, British Rajah of Sarawak, it was handed over to the BritishNorth Borneo Chartered Co. in 1890, the Government of the Straits Settlements in1907, and became part of the Colony of North Borneo after World War One. TheJapanese occupied it from 1942 to 1945, re-naming it Maida Island after theChief Commander of their forces in Borneo (General Maida was later killed inan air crash while travelling to Labuan from Bintulu). It was liberated from10th June 1945 by Australian forces under General McArthur, returned toBritish rule, and became part of independent Malaysia in 1963.
Although rich in deposits of oil and petroleum, Labuan's only industry for much of the19th century was coal mining. From 1847 to 1911 a number of British companiesextracted coal from Tanjong Kubong at the north tip of the island. One of thelater companies, New Central Borneo, constructed a railway line to transportthe coal to Victoria Port. However, the mines were eventually closed after aseries of accidents.