International Journal of Economics & Management Sciences

ISSN: 2162-6359

Open Access

Production of Nonferrous Metals in the Katanga Region of the Democratic Republic of Congo: 1906-2012


John Ngoy Kalenga

This paper investigates the production of nonferrous metals in the Katanga region of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DR Congo) from the colonial period to the independent Congo. It focuses specifically on the major enterprise known initially as Union Miniere du Haut Katanga (UMHK) in the period of Belgian rule and Gecamines during the independent era. It aims to estimate the economic value of the processed metals from a historical perspective. This study builds on sources that include internal documents, archives of companies, and in-depth interviews with managers. The findings reveal that during the colonial period, the copper industry alone generated a total income of US$ 5.5 billion that represented twice the Congolese nominal GDP of 1960. This revenue financed exclusively Belgian interests. The UMHK provided strategic metals to the Western Allies during the two World Wars making the company a big supplier of metals on the world market. After nationalization of the UMHK in 1967, the copper industry generated a total income of about US$ 52.6 billion under the Congolese ownership and management. Gecamines contributed an average of 11.6 percent to the Congolese GDP per year.


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