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False BEHIND THE SMOKESCREEN You won’t find Zambia’s Copperbelt on any list of the country’s great attractions. This populous, industrial region, with its teeming towns and grinding industry, is seen almost as a necessary evil – the powerhouse of a nation’s economy, perhaps, but hardly suitable for the front of its brochures. But first impressions, discovered Crispin Quarmby, can be deceptive. A marching line of pylons, five abreast, is the first hint of what lies ahead. Soon, turning north onto the Ndola/ Kitwe highway, you pass the vast switching station that distributes all this power to the mines and mining towns. Then finally, as you start the long descent to the Kafue River crossing, the full extent of the industrial landscape becomes apparent, with mine headgear looming to your south and a great pall of smoke belching from the tall chimneys dead ahead. Welcome to the Copperbelt. At first glance, this landscape is far from the ‘ Real Africa’ beloved of the safari industry. So perhaps it is hardly surprising that this heavily industrialised and densely populated corner of Zambia rarely features on the average tourist itinerary. Indeed, Copperbelt Province – situated some 350km north of Lusaka – may be the country’s smallest, but it contains seven of its ten major conurbations, including the towns of Kabwe, Kitwe and Ndola. The Copperbelt, of course, gets its name from the huge copper deposits that were discovered and developed into mines during the early part of the twentieth century. And the story of the region’s fluctuating fortunes is, to a large extent, the story of modern Zambia. In the early days, the flourishing mining industry attracted migrant workers from all over Zambia and, indeed, the world. As the mines expanded after World War Two, with copper production peaking in 1969 at 720,000 tonnes, mine towns also prospered. The various mining companies competed to provide the very best in housing and recreation for their employees, each town offering its own golf course, sports clubs, riding arena and so on. Indeed, Chingola Golf Club was adjudged by Gary Player to be among the best fifteen outside the USA ( and he should know). In 1982, Zambia Consolidated Copper Mines ( ZCCM) was formed as a conglomerate Above: Nkana mine plant area and smelter, Kitwe Below: Open- cast mining for copper and cobalt at Nchanga Mine, Chingola Opposite: The Kafue River offers respite from all that bustle and industry. ALL PHOTOS: STEPHEN ROBINSON 36 Travel Zambia May 2008

False comprising all the original mining companies. However, the falling price of copper on world markets during the eighties and nineties severely reduced the revenues that had helped fuel Zambia’s development and the Copperbelt took a downward turn. By 1990, reinvestment in the mines had virtually dried up and moreover the industry was beginning to contemplate the exhaustion of its mineral resources. During this period, much of the expatriate population left for greener pastures ( many with a heavy heart), and many of their once- sparkling facilities fell into disrepair. In 1991, a new government under President Frederick Chiluba privatized many of the state- owned concerns, including ZCCM. The company was subdivided (‘ unbundled’ was the term used) and the new owners began a massive re- injection of capital. This foreshadowed a recovery in the region’s fortunes. Today new mines are being developed, and old mines – some dating back to the 1920s – refurbished. Engineers and metallurgists are moving back with their families, and the Copperbelt receives a constant stream of suppliers and traders eager to do business with the new management. The Copperbelt is even extending beyond the boundaries of its eponymous province, as new deposits of copper have been identified to the west in the Solwezi and Mwinilunga areas of North- Western Province. Mining makes a mess wherever you go in the world, and the Copperbelt is no exception. But there is more to the region than its industry. The many people who live on or visit the Copperbelt need their escape and recreation, and in the Kafue River – which flows in a great arc from the far north of the Province to the far south beyond Luanshya – they have a beautiful natural playground on their doorstep. Those in the know find perfect getaways and weekend retreats along its banks, with relaxation, boating and fishing par excellence. Zambia undiscovered At first glance, this landscape seems far from the ‘ Real Africa’ beloved of the safari industry. May 2008 Travel Zambia 37