Chapter IV : Economic Geography
Part 2 : Production

from : J. Roland and E. Duchesne, Cours Complet de Geographie : Le Congo Belge, Namur 1914, pp.36-42

Mineral Production; Extractive Industry. - The presently extracted minerals in the Belgian Congo are iron, copper, tin, gold, stone and salt. Silver and platin are found in combination with other minerals, and there are indications of the existence of deposits of coal, lead, manganese and mica, and of diamond-containing rock.
Until today, only three regions are recognised as rich in mineral deposits. They are, in the order of importance, Katanga, the oriental incline stretching along the Great Lakes, and, in the Lower Congo, the region of Mayumbe. We add some points, all on the peripheric terrace, of the Ubangi-Bomu and the Upper Kasai.
Katanga. - Katanga is the mining region par excellence. Its principal mineral riches are its deposits of copper and tin. Their are also believed to be deposits of coal and iron and some deposits of manganese and mica. Platin, in combination with gold and is signalled at very numerous points. Finally we mention, to be complete, the minerals of lead, diamond and limestone.
Copper in the Katanga presents itself in the form of malachite. The number of deposits is considerable. The most important ones are those of Kambove, of Etoile du Congo (near Elisabethville), of Luushia, to the south of Kambove, of Kolwezi and Dikuruwe (both to the south of Ruwe), of Fungurume (to the nw of Kambove), of Luiswishi (to the n of Elisabethville).
The deposits of tin are almost entirely confined to a region which extends from Busanga, on the Upper Lualaba, to the n of Ruwe, roughly to Kiambi, on the Luvua. The most important ones are those of Busanga, Kasonso, Shikoli ant Muika, on the Luvua; the latter, located a few kilometers upward from Kiambi and with a surface of 80,000 hectars, has the precious advantage to touch the navigable section of the Luvua.
The presence of abundant deposits of coal was very recently revealed by the prospection of the Geomine Society, not far from the Lukuga, along the railway line from Kabalo to Lake Tanganyika. They are equally indicated at some points on the right bank of the Lualaba, to the n. of Ruwe.
Iron ore abounds in Katanga, as in the entire extent of the colony, in the laterite which makes up the upper layer of the soil. Yet, a great quantity has also been found in the form of magnetite and hermatite, in layers reaching the surface and rising above the country's average surface in true mountains of iron, such as those of Kafunda-Mikopo, Shamalenge, Shiwanda, near the source of the Lualaba, on the southern frontier of the colony.
Of the number of deposits of Manganese, one should mention those of Kasekelua or Kasekelesa, to the west of Ruwe. It is believed that Mica is to be found at Katovo, on the Lualaba, downriver from Busanga.
Gold is found rather widespread in Katanga, as in almost all southern regions of the Congo Basin, notably on the Kasai; but it does not appear in a certain abundance at cetrain places. The richest auriferous deposit discovered so far is found at Ruwe. It also contains platin. At other points, such as Kambove and Fungurume, gold is found, in small proportion, in combination with copper. It is normally accompanied by silver.
The existence of diamond is indicated in the gravel of the Mutendele river, a left affluent of the Lualaba, to the n of Ruwe. On the other side, in the southern region of the Kundelungu mountains, about 200 km to the east of Mutendele, layers of a rock have been found which in its mineralogic composition resembles kimberlite, or the rock-mother of the diamonts of south Africa. Finally, important discoveries of diamantiferous deposits are pursued in this moment in the region of Upper Kasai.
Katanga includes several deposits of limestone; they are located in the vicinity of Kambove to the e. of Ruwe. - Finally, one observes numerous hot wells, sulfurous and containing sulfates, along the Lualaba and the Lufira, and saltwater sources, notably at Mwashia, on the Lufira, upriver from Lukafu : the salt is a product very much in demand, to the point that in certain regions it is regarded a precious exchange merchandise.

Other Regions. - The oriental incline, which on the west, in the Belgian colony, stretches along the Graben of the Great Lakes, seems to join in the mineral riches of Katanga, but it cannot be said, in the present state of things, in which proportion and at which well determined points.
At the present hour, the prospections signal the existence of deposits of copper, of stanniferous layers and the presence of coal on the Urua. Gold is exploited in the rich moines of Kilo on the Ituri, to the west of Lake Albert, and at Moto, not far from Van Kerckhovenville on the Upper Uele, and at new auriferous fields which on the sources of Kibati-Uele and in the basin of the Aruwimi.
The region of Mayumbe does not stand much behind Katanga in the richness of iron and copper; all in all, the presently exploited copper mines are located in the outer part of the colony, but very close to it's frontiers.
Nickel exists in the Crystal Mountains, which include on it's surface granite, marble and limestone.
Finally, the International Forestry and Mining Society of the Congo has recently discovered gold, silver and platin as well as deposits of bitumen and petrol.
Among the other provinces particularly rich in iron - we have said before that one finds a little everywhere in the laterite - we mention the Upper Uele. (Iron mountains of Angba, in the Amaż▀ massive, between Niangara and Bambili), the region where the Ubangi and Rubi flow into Lake Tumba, the Maringa basin and the Upper Kasai. - Copper deposits are also indicated on the Ubangi-Bomu and at Bamanga, to the northeast of Ponthierville, deposits of tin between the Uele and Itimbiri, on the Kasai. - Clay is found here and there in considerable deposits. - The indigenous of the coastal area gained salt from seawater; those of the interior gained it either from saline sources, or from the ash of aquatic plants which they washed.

Diverse Industries. - The only industry, until the last years, the indigenous industry, is again rudimentary. The Congolese peoples could smelt iron and forge arms and utensils; plait baskets from plant fibres; produce pottery, fishnets, thin cloth, collect rubber, copal etc.
Modern industry is only beginning to establish itself in the Congo. Except the extractive industries already mentioned, we describe : the important copper smelting industry of Lubumbashi, at Elisabethville; the factories of the Society of Oil Mills of the Belgian Congo at Yambaka and Ebonda, near Bumba, at Barumbu, near Basoko; at Basongo, on the confluence of Kasai and Sankuru; at Lusanga (Leverville), on the confluence of Kwango and Kwilu; - the factories where coffee is prepared for sale, at Kinshasa and at Coquilhatville; - finally the construction industry, particularly the fabrication of bricks-cement at Boma.
We also note the construction of a pipeline or canalisation of 350 km between Ango-Ango (upriver from Matadi) to Leopoldville, to deliver to that city petrol imported from Europe on oil tankers.

Agriculture and Forestry. - Located on the equator, the Belgian Congo owns a flora of the equatorial zone. To the natural products a number of important colonial cultures are to be added.
Food cultures. - Of the number of industries destined to feed the indigenous, we have to mention the tuber plants : manioc, sweet potato, igname; the cereals : maize, millet, rice, sorghum, eleusine; also the wheat was introduced, via the European establishments, especially in Katanga and the district of Stanleyville; - the legumes and fruit cultures : beans, peanuts, bananas, pineapples (the king of the fruits of Africa) and other vegetables, imported from Europe for the consumption of the whites, such as cabbage, lettuce, peas, leek, celery, tomato etc.; various species of indigenous or exotic fruit trees : oranges, lemons, mangoes, fruit trees etc.; finally, spice plants : pepper, vanilla, nutmeg, clove, ginger, etc. - We state that recent establishments of white settlers have established the cultivation of vegetables and victuals in the vicinity of Leopoldville, notably at Kunzulu, and in the mining region of Katanga, especially around Elisabethville.
The government has established, for experiments on plants of value, botanical gardens and test gardens at Eala, on the left bank of the Ruki, near Coquilhatville, others at Zambi and Kongo-da-Lemba, in Lower Congo. The Jesuit Fathers have equally established at Kisantu, their principal establishment near Thysville (Lower Congo) a botanical garden remarkable for its size as well as for its rich collections.

Industrial Cultures. - Rubber. - The principal wealth of the Congo lies in the production of rubber. It is provided partly by trees, such as the ireh, partly by lianes, such as the landolphia, growing throughout the forest or the savannah (herbal rubber). To these two natural sources of production today the plantation rubber has to be added, particularly the hevea of Brazil and the funtumias.
Among other gums and resins of importance, we mention the copal, used in the production of varnish and provided by an indigenous tree, and gutta-percha, which is latex, resembling rubber, of a tree mentioned.
Oleiferous Plants. - The oli palm and peanut form a first line among the producers of oil and fat.
The oil palm grows spontaneous and with exuberance in all of the Congo, as well in the forest as in the savannah. It is the useful tree par excellence : its nuts are used as coverage of their huts, its fibres for weaving their cloth, its juice for the malafu and, under the name of palm cabbage, its heart or terminal bud, birthplace of the leaves, is consumed as vegetable; the fleshy part of its fruits - several hundreds of almonds collected in clusters, - extract an oil, palm oil, used for culinary prposes, in the production of soap and candles, and for greasing machines; the kernels, or palm-nuts, give a fine oil, edible, of superior quality.
The peanut, vurgarily called the ground pistachio, is a leguminous plant the grains of which are edible, boiled or grilled. They provide with a white and fine oil, which serves to imitate olive oil and which is used, equal to the latter, on the table. It serves also in lighting, in perfumery and in the production of fine soap. The production residues serve as fodder for livestock.
Among the other more important oleiferous plants there is another one, nulla panza, providing an oil used in making soap; sesame, castor oil, used in pharmacy; the butter tree, which provides with an edible butter; the wine palm; the cocos palm, which provides with the coconut and copra.
Textile plants. - Several are of certain value, not only for indigenous use, but also as an industrial culture for export.

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Last revised on February 13th 2002

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