Between waste and profit: Environmental values on the Central African Copperbelt

Iva Pesa*

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

    1 Citation (Scopus)

    Abstract

    Industrial mining activity has transformed the environment of the Central African Copperbelt in the twentieth century. Copper extraction and processing altered the urban landscape, generated much waste, and caused severe long-term pollution. This article examines changing environmental values among diverse Copperbelt actors, including mine engineers, government officials, mineworkers, doctors, and farmers. Why were air and water pollution long accepted as ‘negative externalities’ of copper production? How have the environmental dynamics of mining on the Copperbelt been ‘naturalised’ over time? By focusing on topics such as air, water, health, cleanliness, and pollution, the tensions between the profit-oriented motives of mining companies, the technocratic solutions proposed by engineers, and popular concerns over human and environmental wellbeing are revealed. Although resignation towards industrial pollution on the Copperbelt prevailed for most of the twentieth century, views of environmental change were always contested and have changed recently. Relying on unique archival sources and interviews, this article shows changing attitudes towards copper mining in the Anthropocene.
    Original languageEnglish
    JournalThe Extractive Industries and Society
    DOIs
    Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 21-Aug-2020

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