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Encyclopedia > Union Minière du Haut Katanga

The Union Minière du Haut Katanga (UMHK) was a Belgian mining trust operating in Katanga, in what is now the Democratic Republic of the Congo (formerly, Congo Free State, from 1908, Belgian Congo, from 1972, Zaire). It was created on October 28, 1906, as a result of a merger of a company created by Leopold II and Tanganyika Concessions Ltd (a British group created by Cecil Rhodes, which started prospecting for minerals in 1899, and was granted mining concessions in 1900), in order to exploit the mineral wealth of Katanga. It was owned by the Société Générale de Belgique, Belgium's largest holding company (which controlled 70% of the economy of the Congo). The Kingdom of Belgium (Dutch: Koninkrijk België, French: Royaume de Belgique, German: Königreich Belgien) is a country in Western Europe, bordered by the Netherlands, Germany, Luxembourg, France, and the North Sea. ... Katanga is the southern province of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, regional capital Lubumbashi (formerly Elizabethville). ... The Democratic Republic of the Congo is a nation in central Africa and the third largest country on the continent. ... The Congo Free State was a private kingdom personally owned by Leopold II of Belgium that included the entire area now known as the Democratic Republic of the Congo. ... Categories: Africa geography stubs | History of the Democratic Republic of the Congo ... 1972 was a leap year that started on a Saturday. ... Zaire (spelt Zaïre in French) was the name of the Second Republic of Democratic Republic of the Congo between 1971 and 1997. ... October 28 is the 301st day of the year (302nd in leap years) in the Gregorian Calendar, with 64 days remaining. ... 1906 was a common year starting on Monday (see link for calendar). ... King Leopold II Leopold II, King of the Belgians (Louis Philippe Marie Victor) (April 9, 1835–December 17, 1909), succeeded his father, Leopold I of Belgium, to the Belgian throne in 1865 and remained king until his death. ... Cecil John Rhodes (July 5, 1853 – March 26, 1902) was an English businessman and the effective founder of the state of Rhodesia (which was named after him). ... 1899 was a common year starting on Sunday (see link for calendar). ... 1900 is a common year starting on Monday. ...

Cheap copper has no terrors for the great Mid-African mines of the Union Minière du Haut Katanga, world's biggest producer. At the company's annual meeting in Brussels last week. President Jean Jadot stated that his company can make money on 8¢ or even 7½¢ copper. Katanga's 1930 earnings were 270,208,000 Belgian francs ($7,511,000), only about 6,000,000 francs down from the peak earnings of 1929. Elements in Katanga's strength are: tremendously rich ores; cheap native labor; big production of cobalt and radium (over 82%, of world radium supply) on the side; and, most recent, the newly opened Benguela Railway, which connects Katanga with the Atlantic, saves hundreds of rail miles, thousands of sea miles for Katanga copper on its long journey to European markets.

Copper's Travail, August 10, 1931, Time [1]  (http://www.time.com/time/archive/preview/0,10987,882051,00.html)

During its years of operation, the UMHK greatly contributed to the development of Katanga — which became more developed than its surrounding regions — at the same time employing mercenaries to subdue the local population (The company's motto at the time, best expressing white opinion of indigenous population, was "good health, good spirits, and high productivity."). Katanga's mineral wealth led to the construction of railways to connect it with the coast, a connection which took place in 1911. Thereafter, mineral production, especially of copper, took off. For instance, in 1911, the Ruashi Mine, owned by the UMHK, began operation, supplying 997 tons of copper on its first year. By 1919, annual production had risen to 22,000 tons, produced by seven furnaces. In 1935, the Union was party to the World Copper Agreement [2]  (http://www.let.leidenuniv.nl/history/rtg/cartels/copper.html). In the 1950's, Congo was the world’s fourth copper-producing country. (Clockwise from upper left) Time magazine covers from May 7, 1945; July 25, 1969; December 31, 1999; September 14, 2001; and April 21, 2003. ...


In addition to the copper for which it is known, Katanga was also rich in other minerals. The company controlled the exports of cobalt (the UMHK was responsible 75% of the production of which during the 1950's), tin, uranium and zinc in its mines, among the richest in the world. Henri Buttgenbach, a famous Belgian metallurgist and administrator of UMHK from 1911, described cornetite, fourmarierite, cuprosklodowskie and thoreaulite. The finding of radium deposits in Katanga at the same time eventually led to a Belgian radium-extracting industry. Johannes Franciscus Vaes, who has studied minerals coming from the UMHK, is responsible for the discovery of billietite, masuyite, renierite, richetite, schuilingite-(Nd), sengierite, tudtite and vandendriesscheite. Gaston Briart, after whom Briartite is named, was a UNHK consultant. General Name, Symbol, Number cobalt, Co, 27 Chemical series transition metals Group, Period, Block 9 , 4, d Density, Hardness 8. ... The word tin is often used to mean a can, even if it does not contain any tin metal. ... General Name, Symbol, Number zinc, Zn, 30 Chemical series transition metals Group, Period, Block 12, 4, d Density, Hardness 7140 kg/m3, 2. ... General Name, Symbol, Number Radium, Ra, 88 Series Alkali earth metals Group, Period, Block 2(IIA), 7, s Density, Hardness 5000 kg/m3, no data Appearance Silvery white metallic Atomic Properties Atomic weight (226. ... Gaston Briart was a Belgian geologist and mining engineer who worked and studied rock formations at Prince Léopold Mine, Kipushi, Katanga, Democratic Republic of the Congo. ... Briartite is an opaque iron-grey metallic sulfide mineral, Cu2(Zn,Fe)GeS4 with traces of Ga and Sn, found as inclusions in other germanium-gallium-bearing sulfides. ...


In 1922, the UMHK built its first refinery for uranium ore, and by 1926 had a virtual monopoly of the world uranium market (holding most of the deposits known at the time), to be broken only by the German invasion of 1940. This uranium was mostly refined at Olen, Belgium. In 1939 , Frédéric Joliot-Curie, head of the French newly-established Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (CNRS), arranged for the UMHK to provide his organization 5 tons of uranium oxide, technical assistance with the construction of a reactor and a million francs, in exchange for having all discoveries made by the CNRS patented by a syndicate, with profits shared between the CNRS and the UMHK. This uranium oxide was transfered to England before German troops entered Paris. [3] (http://www.es.flinders.edu.au/~mattom/science+society/lectures/lecture29.html) General Name, Symbol, Number Uranium, U, 92 Chemical series Actinides Period, Block 7 , f Density, Hardness 19050 kg/m3, ND Appearance silvery-white metal Atomic properties Atomic weight 238. ... Olen is a municipality located in the Belgian province of Antwerp. ... The French Republic or France (French: République française or France) is a country whose metropolitan territory is located in western Europe, and which is further made up of a collection of overseas islands and territories located in other continents. ... The Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (CNRS) is one of the most prominent scientific research institutions in France. ...


The Americans also obtained uranium from the Union Minière. It was in a meeting between Edgar Sengier, head of UMHK, and United States General Kenneth David Nichols, working on the Manhattan Project, that the US obtained the 1500 tons of uranium (mostly mined at Shinkolobwe mine, near the town of Likasi) the project required. This was transfered directly from Congo to the United States; some 1200 tons of uranium stored at the Olen refinery were captured by the Germans in 1940, and only recovered by US troops at the end of the war. [4]  (http://www.world-nuclear.org/ushista.htm) Control panels and operators for calutrons at Oak Ridge National Laboratory. ...


During its heydays, the UMHK operated schools, dispensaries, hospitals and sporting establishments, and had enjoyed virtually unlimited funds with the Banque de la Société Générale de Belgique. In 1959, Belgian profits from the Union Miniere were in excess of 3.5 billion Belgian francs, and export duties payed to the Congolese government constituted 50% of the government's revenue. There were times when the Belgian colony's tax on the UMHK accounted for up to 66 of its revenues. It is reported that in 1960, the UMHK had annual sales of $200 million USD, had produced 60 percent of the uranium in the West, 73 percent of the cobalt, and 10 percent of the copper, and had in the Congo 24 affiliates including hydroelectric plants, chemical factories and railways. The franc is the name of several currency units. ...


This eventually came to an end. Turbulence started in 1960, with the Congolese declaration of independence. In 1961, the UMHK supported the secession of the province of Katanga from the Congo and the murder of Patrice Lumumba, Congo's first president after the Belgian colonial rule. Upon the provinces's secession, the Union transfered 1.25 billion Belgian francs (35m USD) into Moise Tshombe's bank account, an advance on 1960 taxes which should in fact have been payed to Lumumba's government. On December 31, 1966, the Congolese government, under dictator Mobutu Sese Seko, took over the possessions and activities of the UMHK, transforming it into Gecamines (Société générale des Carrières et des Mines), a state-owned mining company. Mismanagement and failure to adopt modern standards of mining (rather than mining depletion), as well as outright theft by dictator Mobutu, meant that mining production was greatly reduced, with production rate sinking as much as 70%. Patrice Emery Lumumba (July 2, 1925 – January 17/18, 1961) was the first Prime Minister of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. ... Moise Kapenda Tshombe (1919-June 29, 1969) was a Congolese politician. ... December 31 is the 365th day of the year (366th in leap years) in the Gregorian Calendar. ... -1... Mobutu Sese Seko Nkuku wa za Banga (or Mobutu Sese Seko Koko Ngbendu Wa Za Banga; October 14, 1930 - September 7, 1997) was the President of Zaire (now the Democratic Republic of the Congo) from 1965 to 1997. ...


External link

  • List of directors of UMHK (http://rulers.org/cngkprov.html)
  • Scramble for Katanga (http://kolwezikat.free.fr/scramble.htm) (downloadable book)

 
 

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