Kansanshi Copper mine in Zambia. Image credit apjjf.org

ZIMSEC O Level Geography Notes: Natural Resources: Case Study:Copper mining in Zambia

The Copper belt

  • The following are factors which have influenced the development of copper mining on the copper belt in Zambia:

Geological occurrence of copper

  • The copper deposits occur in an axial belt which stretches from Zambia into the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).
  • The copper ore occurs in seams of varying depths and the seams are gently folded in places.
  • Both open cast and shaft mining methods are used in the extraction of copper.

Labour supply

  • There is a large amount of migrant labour of all classes from areas within Zambia as well as other neighbouring countries such as Zimbabwe, Malawi and Rwanda.

Technology and capital

  • Mining is heavily dependent on foreign investment and mining technology.

Political stability

  • Political stability within the whole Southern Africa region is essential for profitable exploitable of copper deposits.
  • Internal civil wars in the DRC, Angola and Mozambique have had negative effects on mining in Zambia.


  • Exploitation of copper resources is influenced by trends on the world market. The price of copper has been fluctuating at a lower level during the past twenty years and this has reduced profitability of the mining sector.

Transport and distance from the market

  • Zambia is a landlocked country.
  • Huge amounts of money are spent on transportation of copper through neighbouring countries.
  • Internal civil wars in the DRC and Angola have rendered the shortest and therefore most viable rail route to the sea (Benguela railway line) unstable.
  • The alternative eastern route which was constructed due to these problems of political instability is too long.
  • Use of the TanZam railway line is affected by high fuel costs, shortages of spares and insufficiently port capacity at Dar-es-Salaam.

Government policy

  • Nationalization of some mines after the attainment of political independence resulted in reduced output and loss of skilled manpower.

Power supplies

  • Hydroelectric power (HEP) comes from the DRC, Kariba and Kafue HEP schemes.
  • Initially, coal was railed from the Hwange field but it is now mined from the Mamba deposits in Zambia (Zambezi valley).

To access more topics go to the O Level Geography Notes page