Country Listing

Zaire Table of Contents




Figure 10. Mineral Resources, 1993

Mining has been the cornerstone of Zaire's wealth since colonial times. In the late 1980s, Zaire was the world's largest producer of cobalt, second or third largest producer of industrial diamonds, and fifth largest producer of copper. Mining, mineral processing, and petroleum extraction accounted for 17 percent of the GDP in 1990 (down from 24 percent in 1987) and mineral exports, principally copper, cobalt, diamonds, and gold, provided nearly 75 percent of all export earnings. The mining industry, primarily the giant Gécamines, also provided a significant percentage of ordinary government revenues, although the company failed to reinvest profits, resulting in worn-out equipment. In addition, to enrich itself the presidency repeatedly diverted the firm's funds. Throughout the early 1990s, the deterioration of Gécamines was both a symbol and a result of the country's economic chaos. Most skilled expatriates working for the company fled following military looting in 1991 and further unrest in 1992. Since then Gécamines's facilities have been systematically gutted, and the company is now bankrupt.

Mining is centered in the southeastern and eastern parts of the country with the exception of petroleum, which is found in the far west in Bas-Zaïre Region, and diamonds, mined in Kasai-Oriental and Kasai-Occidental regions (see fig. 10). Shaba Region has the greatest concentration of minerals, with copper, cobalt, and zinc mined in a narrow crescent known as the copper-cobalt zone, stretching roughly from Kolwezi to Lubumbashi. Shaba Region also contains most of Zaire's known deposits of coal and manganese. A broad belt in eastern Zaire from northern Shaba to eastern HautZaïre Region contains deposits of tin and gold with lesser amounts of tungsten-bearing wolframite, niobium, and tantalum.

Data as of December 1993