Map of the Copperbelt Province showing its districts.
|31,328 km2 (12,096 sq mi)
|75/km2 (200/sq mi)
Copperbelt, formerly Western Province, province in north central Zambia, located southwest of Katanga Region in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC, formerly Zaire). The Copperbelt covers 3,133 sq km (1,210 sq mi) of the upper portion of the basin of the Kafue River on the central plateau of southern Africa, and is about 900 to 1,500 m (about 3,000 to 5,000 ft) above sea level. The rolling terrain is covered by savanna vegetation. The province receives an average of 1,200 to 1,400 mm (about 48 to 55 in) of precipitation during the rainy season, which lasts from about November to April.
The Copperbelt is the center of a mining industry that provides more than 90 percent of Zambia's export earnings. Copper is the principal mineral produced, and cobalt, selenium, and precious metals are extracted as byproducts. The region has a diversified industrial base specializing in primary processing of minerals and in the production of consumer goods. Small-scale peasant agriculture predominates, although there are substantial commercial farms near the major cities.
The prevailing ethnic groups in the Copperbelt are the Lamba and Lira, but the population is extremely diverse as a result of many decades of migration from all parts of Zambia and from neighboring countries. More than 90 percent of the population lives in urban areas. The largest cities are the provincial capital, Ndola; Kitwe; Luanshya; Chingola; and Mufulira. Bemba is the dominant language.
Hand axes and cleavers dating from the early Stone Age and found in the province demonstrate the antiquity of human settlement in the area. By ad300 inhabitants of the region were farmers who smelted iron and exploited local copper deposits. British colonial rule began in the mid-1890s when the British South Africa Company signed treaties with local chiefs. The province became part of the colony of Northern Rhodesia in 1924, and part of the Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland in 1953. Members of the mining communities of the Copperbelt took a lead role in the political struggle that brought independence to Zambia in 1964. Population 1,428,869 (1990).
The Copperbelt region of Zambia and Congo D.R. is a 500 million year old mountain chain, the Lufilian Arc, which formed when two large pieces of continental crust, the Kalahari craton and the Congo craton, collided. This collision was one of the many that happened between 700 and 500 million years ago to form the Gondwana supercontinent.
This collision is thought to have remobilised base metals, largely already present in the sediments that had accumulated in the basin between the two cratons. These brines then concentrated the base metals either along stratigraphic boundaries, or along fractures, faults or within structurally controlled 'traps' (such as the nose of a fold). The collision also produced crustal shortening, during which the stratigraphic sequence was tectonically pushed northwards on top of the Congo Craton.
The Lufilian Arc contains two diamictites, megaconglomerates of glacial origin. One of those is correlated with the Sturtian glaciation, while another correlates with the Marinoan Glaciation, both global glaciation events that had profound influence on the history of the planet.
The Lufilian Arc is correlated along trend to the west with the Damara Orogen in Namibia, which also hosts large mineral deposits.
Copperbelt Province is rich with mineral finds and mines. The name of the province is given by the rich finds of copper ore (e.g. Chingola, Konkola, Nchanga Mines), but notable are also emerald mines along Kafubu River, which in the first 6 months of 2011 yielded 3.74 tons of high quality emeralds.
Copperbelt Province is divided into 10 districts:
- Chililabombwe District
- Chingola District
- Kalulushi District
- Kitwe District
- Luanshya District
- Lufwanyama District
- Masaiti District
- Mpongwe District
- Mufulira District
- Ndola District
- For more detail see Copperbelt Province in the Wildlife of Zambia
There are no national parks in this most urban and industrial of Zambia's provinces. Other parks with wildlife aspects:
- Chembe Bird Sanctuary west of Kitwe includes crocodiles and Sitatunga as well as plentiful bird life.
- Chimfunshi Wildlife Orphanage (established mainly to rescue captive non-indigenous chimpanzees).