The largest town is Pangkalpinang which also serves as the capital of Bangka-Belitung province. Sungailiat is the second largest city in Bangka island. Muntok is the principal port in the west. The other important town are Toboali in the southern region, Koba an important tin mining town, also located on the southern part of the island, and Belinyu a town famous for its seafood products. Three are 3 sea ports in Bangka; Muntok on the far west, Belinyu on the far north, Sadai on the far south, and Pangkal Balam are the closest one to Pangkal Pinang.
Since c. 1710, Bangka has been one of the world's principal tin-producing centers. Tin production is an Indonesian government monopoly, and there is a smelter at Muntok. Pepper is also produced on the island.
The majority of the inhabitants are Malay Indonesians and Chinese, mostly Hakkas. The population is split between those who work the pepper farms and those who work on the tin mines.
Bangka was ceded to Britain by the sultan of Palembang in 1812, but in 1814 it was exchanged with the Dutch for Cochin in India. The island was occupied by the Japanese from 1942 to 1945. It became part of independent Indonesia in 1949. The island, together with neighboring Belitung, was formerly part of South Sumatra (Sumatera Selatan) province, but in 2000 the two islands became the new province of Bangka-Belitung. Bangka is famous for two other events; the Banka Island Massacre in WWII by the Japanese of Australian Nurses and as reputedly the setting for the book "Lord Jim" by Joseph Conrad.
In 1930 Bangka had a population of 205,363.