Abstract: The Birth of the Copper-Mining Economy in Northern Rhodesia and Katanga, 1899-1914

Timo Sarkka


The impetus and much of the capital for the exploitation of the copper deposits on the Congo-Zambezi watershed in colonial Zambia and Katanga originated from British mining interests operating in Southern Africa since the late 1860s. The first successful effort to set up a colonial copper-mining economy in Northern Rhodesia and Katanga was made by Tanganyika Concessions Limited, a London-based free-standing company formed in 1899 to exploit the mineral resources of the country. The nature of colonialism in Africa was such that the interests of various groups were intertwined. There was a mutual interest to exploit the minerals and to benefit from the very rich copper deposits right down from the top to the bottom, starting from colonial governments and ending with petty prospectors on the spot. The study builds on company records as well as personal records of some of the early company prospectors in Africa. The history of the copper-mining economy in Northern Rhodesia and Katanga illustrates how the mining companies increased production capacities, transformed social relations, and molded new aspirations.